Monday, January 21, 2013

Gift Guide

I really enjoy giving gifts and don't mind spending money on something as long as I know the person receiving it will love it, but sometimes it can be hard to know what people will love!

Personally, I love it when friends and family members have an Amazon wishlist so that you can pick something that they will definitely be happy to get. (Because they picked it out and requested it.) You can even add things from other stores/websites to your Amazon list so that all your dream items can be found on one easy list. There is also a place to add comments on each item, such as size and color preferences, and a way to itemize each item by priority so that people looking at your list can see which items you want the most. 

One last reason I love Amazon wish lists is that I can buy someone a gift spur of the moment and it will automatically be delivered to them. You can even buy e-books for people and they will be able to download them to their own e-reader. So handy. It makes gift-giving easy and stress free, and the recipient is always surprised and delighted to get something they have been wishing for. 

For some people this registry format of gift-giving spoils all the fun of giving a gift. I still think wish lists are effective in these cases as a resource to see their tastes and preferences. Wish lists are helpful either way, even if you decide to stray from their specified list. 

Here is a gift guide I've put together for the different people in your life to help get the ideas flowing.

For Couples: 

1. Movie ticket vouchers with a note attached including your services as a free babysitter for when they use them. 

2. A new board game in the same vein you already play with them, and you know they like. 
I recommend Curses and Avalon for anyone that loves to laugh. 

3. Gift card for a local restaurant. 

For Sisters:

Image 1 of ASOS Faux Fur Snood

2. Hanae Mori: My new favorite perfume

Gift Boutique Fortune Cookie Box

For Moms:

Glitter Tart Server

3. Bringing Up Bebe by: Pamela Druckerman

For Dads:

1. Tickets to a favorite sporting event, concert, or play

2. DVD set of their favorite television show

Get Smart - The Complete Series Gift Set

3. Magazine subscription to Sports Illustrated, National Geographic, etc.

The Complete National Geographic on 7 DVD-ROMs

For Teens:

1. Teenage Beauty by Bobbi Brown

Bobbi Brown Teenage Beauty

2. Comfort Chair: Great for camping, sports events, and picnics.

Crazy Creek Comfort Chair

3. Birchbox Subscription: For her, or him.

For Kids:

1. Crayon Maker: Recycles leftover crayon pieces into new crayons. You can even combine colors to make new colors.

Crayola Crayon Maker

For Brothers:

3. WeWood Watch: So many cool watches to choose from.


For Your Sweetheart:

3. Gift certificate for a couple's massage

What kinds of things would you gift for these categories?

What is on your wish list? I always like hearing recommendations! 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

2013: This Year I Will...

Last year for my fun yearly goals, I only accomplished eight out of the ten goals I set. I decided to try again and see if I can get all ten this year.

So here are ten fun things I will do this year!

1. Make homemade bread in the oven:
I made some delicious bread using a bread machine last year. This year I want to try my hand at oven baking.

I have so many fond memories of making homemade bread with my mom as a kid. We had a mini loaf pan that I would use. It always made me feel so special to have my own little loaf of bread. I want to create sweet memories like that with Lucy. Plus, the smell of homemade bread = heaven.

2. Chalkboard frame and drawings:
This is a re-visit of a project I wanted to accomplish last year, my "create a masterpiece". Because I could never decide what to paint over the thrifted painting I bought, I finally decided I want to paint over it with chalkboard paint and do chalkboard drawings on it throughout the year. This also gives me the chance to exercise my drawing skills, which I am excited to do again.

3. Professional Massage:
I have never had a professional full body massage before and have been longing to! I even got a "gift card" to go get one last year from my parents, but never made it happen. This year I will!

4. Organize and downsize jewelry collection:
While I like organizing and downsizing, I usually balk at getting rid of any jewelry as I always anticipate the future day when I can bestow it upon Lucy. I loved that my own mom gave me her old jewelry and so always want to save treasures for Lucy for when she gets a little older.

Instead of having it clutter my jewelry box, and opposed to just getting rid of it, my plan is to pick a jewelry/treasure box to store it in for Lucy's future use.

5. Have fresh flowers in my home:
Whether picking roses and irises from the yard, or buying them from the store, I want to have more fresh flowers in my home this year. I love flowers and they make me so happy whenever I look at them.

6. Make some hair clips for Lucy:
I generally don't like the hair clips available for little girls at local stores. I have been saving scraps of fabric, pinning inspiration, and finally bought some clips to make some myself. Now all I have to do it sit down and make it happen!

7. Fill another sketch book:
Last year's 2-Day Draw was such a success, I thought I would fill another sketch book again this year. I would also like to add "write poetry" to this project and incorporate it into filling of said sketch book.

8. Finish reading Daring to Be Yourself:
A great book to help you figure out and pin down who you are and what you love. Discover your sense of style, and what truly makes you happy.

9. Do a new art project with Lucy every month:
We have done lots of crayon and crayon/watercolor art this past year, but this year I want to branch out and introduce Lucy to some new mediums.

10.  Visit Alaska for Christmas:
Oh, it's a dream of mine! We will have to see what things are actually like next fall/winter, but I hope we can manage it.


I would really love, love to hear what fun things you want to do this year! Post your ideas below, or post a link to your own list!

If you are having trouble thinking here is a fun link to help you brainstorm. I love it! 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Twelve for 2012

Sometimes we get discouraged about all the things we didn't do- goals we failed to achieve, or just things we didn't make the time for. Instead of lamenting and feeling guilty about what we missed, let's focus on some of the positive, uplifting, and even hard things we've done this year- even if they were unplanned and not a "goal".

Here are Twelve Awesome Accomplishments for 2012.

1. Survived allergy testing and having allergy shots twice a week for months:

This was put on hold when our insurance changed, but eventually I will get back on them for another 2-5 years. Yay.

FYI: I am allergic to every kind of grass they tested me with (bermuda, johnson, rye), short ragweed, false ragweed, careless ragweed/pigweed, mesquite trees, household mite, and TOE (whatever that is?) So, basically I am allergic to west Texas!

The good news is that my allergies aren't going to kill me, they just make me break out in rashes and itch really bad.

2. Made homemade bread. Mmmm:
I borrowed our friends bread machine and made several loaves of whole wheat bread. Yum!

3. Downsized:

I've been feeling particularly crowded in our home lately and have been donating and giving away lots of unused items that we've been "saving". It feels so good to de-clutter and have more empty spaces in my home instead of the constant visual stimulation of piles and stacks of items. I love having emptiness and a space that is calming instead of filled to capacity, which stresses me out.

Also, I want the possessions we do own to be things I truly love and that make me happy each time I look at them.

4. Created a blog and posted fairly regularly:

I've really enjoyed documenting our lives and my thoughts on The Podge Files this past year. I still have lots more I want to write about and share. I look forward to this new year and what it will bring.

5. Was asked to be a regular contributor to Swag on, Momma!, a blog created by my dear friend/cousin:

It's a place for women to congregate and share the joys (and struggles) of life together in an effort to uplift and inspire one another. I am so excited to be a part of this community! I love it already.

6. Taught art lessons:

I really enjoyed being able to share my passion and talents with others as I taught several young ladies weekly art lessons. I am taking a break from teaching right now, but look forward to continuing again in the future. See here, here, and here.

7. Made it through a year of being president of the women's organization of my local church congregation:

Sometimes I felt like I was doing awesome, other times I felt like I was failing, but I made it through a year and hopefully learned, grew, and helped other people during my time of service in this capacity.

8. Bought a "new" car:

After our old Durango broke down repeatedly we finally found a new car for Zach to use and take to work. It is so nice to be able to be a two car family again and be able to run errands and go to appointments during the day.

9. Taught Lucy How To:

Pray, fold her arms, identify colors, sing several songs, dance, give massages, help put away clean dishes, put dirty dishes in the sink/dishwasher, fill her own cup with water, put books in the bookshelf, put her clean clothes away, put her dirty clothes in the appropriate hamper, load and move the laundry along, watercolor, pick out matching outfits, and dress herself.

It's been a good year for Lucy and may I just say that nothing is sweeter than hearing your child say their own prayers or singing songs to you. Melts my heart.

10. Spent my first night away from Lucy:

This wasn't that big of a deal to me, mostly I was just worried about her behaving herself while we were away on our anniversary trip. Luckily, she did!

11. Worked out:

Since buying our Cardio Dual Trainer I have worked out more in the past year than I ever have before in my life. I was pretty consistent for quite a few months, then took a break, and have started back up again recently.

I hate sweating, but I feel so good about myself when I do work out.

12. Learned how to make Pho:

My friend from church had me over for lunch and gave me the recipe for homemade Pho. I made it for a dinner party and had friends over. It was a delicious success, and thinking about it makes me want to make it again. Mmmm.

How about you? What accidental/unplanned accomplishments did you achieve this year?

My mantra for the past few months has been:

"I can do hard things."

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Christmas Morning 2012

We had a nice Christmas this year. Lucy woke up and was very excited to see the treats on the table and have breakfast. I made an overnight french toast bake and loved it! 

Unfortunately, Zach wasn't feeling well, but we still enjoyed opening presents and having a day to relax. 

Happy girl!

Lucy eating a crock pot egg/cheese/hash-brown casserole. 

Good morning! 

Thanks Grandma Gayle!                                                   Thanks Grandma and Grandpa Gillson!

One of Zach's few presents to open since most of his were still in the mail!

Thanks Nana and Poppa!

Merry Christmas to Lucy!

Merry Christmas to me!

Overnight Baked French Toast
Recipe found here.

Overnight Baked French Toast
Recipe by Our Best Bites

8 eggs
2 cups half and half (one pint)
1 cup milk (whatever kind you have on hand)
6 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (a little less if using table salt)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 lb loaf of french bread
softened butter for greasing baking dish (2-3 tablespoons)

4 tablespoons packed brown sugar
4 tablespoons white sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons cold butter

For Serving
melted butter
maple syrup
powdered sugar
whipped cream

Crack eggs into large mixing bowl and whisk to combine.  Whisk in half and half and milk.  Add brown sugar, cinnamon, salt and vanilla.  Set aside.
Use softened butter to butter bottom and sides of a 9×13 baking dish.  Cut bread into  1 inch chunks and place in dish.  Whisk egg mixture one more time and then pour evenly over bread.  Use a rubber spatula to very gently toss bread, moving bread on bottom to top, and making sure all of the piece on top get dipped in egg mixture.  Spread out evenly, cover dish, and place in fridge overnight.
To make topping, place brown sugar, white sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl and stir to combine.  Cut cold butter into very small pieces and add to bowl. Use clean hands to break up butter and combine mixture until crumbly.  Cover and place in fridge until morning.
When ready to bake preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Remove plastic from dish and sprinkle topping evenly over top.  Bake for 40-50 minutes or until top is golden brown.  You can stick a knife or skewer in the casserole to make sure the egg mixture is set on the bottom.  *Note I have left a generous baking time window because it varies on ovens and the size of your bread cubes.  I used to cook this closer to 60 minutes at my old house, but in my new convection ovens it’s done closer to 45.  Keep an eye on it and let me know how long yours takes to bake!
Let cool for 5-10 minutes before cutting into squares.  Drizzle with melted butter and syrup, top with berries, whipped cream and a sprinkle of powdered sugar if desired.

See's Candy. Thanks Dad and Gayle! Yum!

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