Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 in pictures

I took my first trip away from my baby Grace when she was about 7 months old.  Sophie and I went to Los Angeles to visit my cousin Jenny.

packing and missing Grace already

Sophie meets her doppelganger, Snow White

We had great a great time together, just Sophie and me.
In retrospect, there were a lot of ballet classes this year.

My two girls began to get to an age where they could play with each other.

In the first half of 2011, I had a lot of quality time with Grace on Fridays, my days off from work.

Valentine's Day.

I started my own stationery business on Etsy.  I recently put it on hiatus because I found that I wasn't enjoying it as much as I should.  Hopefully, 2012 will bring forth new inspiration and energy.

She just got cuter and more fun every day.  She was the best baby I could ever imagine.  So fun to take pictures of.

Sophie was "Black Swan" at her ballet performance.

We went to Clemyjontri quite a few times this year.

And we took our annual trip to the National Zoo.

This was the best Easter ever.  My cousin threw a great party at her house, complete with egg dyeing, an egg roll, and an egg hunt!

Oh, and who gets to go to the White House Easter Egg Roll?  We do, that's who!  Thanks to my cousin :)

My parents really love their grandkids.  They are really really great grandparents.

My sister and I had a yard sale.  It was a lot of hard work.  My sister made $80.  I made $10.  That was not fair.

Grace went through a bout of multiple ear infections this Spring.  It was a trying, exhausting time.

But Spring ended on a high note!  We went to our family's usual Memorial Day reunion at my aunt's home in New Jersey.  It was the best one yet!

Sophie is becoming quite a character.

We took the greatest vacation ever to Atlantis in The Bahamas.  This is now my favorite vacation destination.

Sophie was already so excited on the cab ride from the airport to the hotel.

One of my favorite memories is this particular morning when Sophie and I went down to the beach on our own.

Sophie and her loving dad at the aquarium at Atlantis.
I took Sophie and Grace to my company picnic.  What a hot, tiring day.

Grace turned 1!

It was a very hot summer.

Grace is really developing into a girl who loves necklaces and high heels.

We took a quick trip down to Virginia Beach and it was so much better than I remembered it to be.

The Cox Farms Fall Festival was another annual event we couldn't miss.

Sophie wishes that her hair was long and blond!

And our last trip of 2011.  We went to Los Angeles again to visit my cousin Jenny.  And we happened to celebrate Sophie's 4th birthday at Disneyland with her favorite people.  No, not us--the Disney princesses.

I'll never forget to the gorgeous drive to Malibu.

Eating at Neptune's Nest.  A biker joint! :)

We also went to the Shenandoah Hot Air Balloon and Wine Festival.  Alas, no hot air balloons that day.  I don't think we'll be going back.

Sophie also had a small birthday celebration back at home with my parents.

A little shy from the attention at Guapo's, our favorite Mexican restaurant.
It was the first year that Sophie was really excited about Halloween.

The Thanksgiving-Christmas season was so hectic this year...not as enjoyable as it could've been.  I loved seeing my family so much, but I had so much work stuff going on that I never got a chance to send out Christmas cards, or bake all the cookies I had planned to, or make homemade ornaments.  Maybe next year...

A Christmas photo for a card that was never sent out.

And that was it!  The end :)

Roast Turkey

I know this is late, but I'm writing about it for posterity...

I made a Christmas meal for Darren's family for the second year in a row. Last year, I cheated a bit and ordered a ham then only made the side dishes. This year however, I slaved over a turkey all morning and made all the fixings from scratch as well. It's probably laughable to veteran cooks, but turkeys have always seemed so daunting to me. Choosing to brine, stuff, was all so confusing. Thank goodness I ran across a recipe for roasting turkey which worked out so well for me--I have to share it with you all. The key: roast the bird upside down so that the breast stays extra juicy. Works like a charm!

My Christmas menu:
Roast turkey
Cranberry-clementine sauce
Mashed Potatoes
Corn bread dressing
Buttered corn
Blanched green beans
And for dessert...Buche de noel (OK, I ordered this from Whole Foods--heavenly!)

And here's the recipe for Roast Turkey:

  • 1 turkey
  • Juice of a lemon
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil or melted butter
  • 1/2 yellow onion, peeled and quartered
  • Tops and bottoms of a bunch of celery
  • 2 carrots
  • Parsley
  • Sprigs of fresh rosemary, thyme

1 To start, if the turkey has been refrigerated, bring it to room temperature before cooking. Keep it in its plastic wrapping until you are ready to cook it. Allow approximately 5 hours of defrosting for every pound. So, if you have a 15 pound turkey, it will take about 75 hours to defrost it in the refrigerator, or around 3 days.
Remove the neck and giblets (heart, gizzard, liver). 
2 Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
3 Wash out the turkey with water. Pat the turkey dry with paper towels. Lather the inside of the cavity with the juice of half a lemon. Take a small handful of salt and rub all over the inside of the turkey.
4 Put in inside the turkey a half a yellow onion, peeled and quartered, a bunch of parsley, a couple of carrots, and some tops and bottoms of celery. The neck cavity can be stuffed with parsley.  
Truss the turkey (tie up) with string, so that all the cavities are closed up and the legs and wings are held close to the body.  I watched this great Alton Brown video demonstrating a trussing technique:  

5 Rub melted butter all over the outside of the turkey. Sprinkle salt and pepper generously all over the outside of the turkey.
6 Place turkey BREAST DOWN on the bottom of a rack over a sturdy roasting pan big enough to catch all the drippings. Cooking the turkey breast down means the skin over the breast will not get so brown (but this doesn't matter much if you cut up the turkey anyway). All of the juices from the cooking turkey will fall down into the breast while cooking. And the resulting bird will have the most succulent turkey breast imaginable.
Add several sprigs of fresh (if possible) thyme and rosemary to the outside of the turkey.
7 Put the turkey in the oven. Check the cooking directions on the turkey packaging. Gourmet turkeys often don't take as long to cook. A good rule of thumb is a cooking time of about 15 minutes for every pound. For the 15 lb turkey, start the cooking at 400 F for the first 1/2 hour. Then reduce the heat to 350 F for the next 2 hours. Then reduce the heat further to 225 F for the next hour to hour and a half.
If you want the breast to be browned as well, you can turn the bird over so that the breast is on top, and put it in a 500°F oven or under the broiler for 4-5 minutes, just enough to brown the breast. Note that if you do this, you will have a higher risk of overcooking the turkey breast.
Start taking temperature readings with a meat thermometer, inserted deep into the thickest part of the turkey breast and thigh, an hour before the turkey should be done. You want a resulting temperature of 175°F for the dark meat (thighs and legs) and 165°F for the white meat (breast). The temperature of the bird will continue to rise once you take it out of the oven, so take it out when the temperature reading for the thigh is 170°F, and for the breast 160°F. 
9 Once you remove the turkey from the oven, let it rest for 15-20 minutes. Turn the turkey breast side up to carve it. 

recipe adapted via Simply Recipes

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Baby Animals Nursery Art

Have you seen the baby animal prints from Sharon Montrose? They are so adorbs! So simple and graphic...perfect for a kids' playroom, bedroom, or nursery. She also carries prints of adult animals for the rest of the house.

all images via The Animal Print Shop