Christmas Recap

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas! Sarah and I had a fantastic time in Bowling Green, Western Kentucky, Somerset, Louisville, and Lexington with our family and friends. This year, I felt like Christmas lasted about a week and a half. It started with a family celebration last Sunday afternoon and the party really just ended the yesterday with a Christmas lunch with a close friend. This was my second married Christmas, and I think the holidays are one of the hardest transitions at the beginning of a marriage (other than you know moving in with a boy and starting a life together). While it’s typically really fun to spend time with more family and discover new traditions (i.e. hot browns on Christmas day is pretty amazing), deciding where to go and who to spend time with is a compromise. Jay and I did a better job this year of planning the week and even managed to start some new traditions of our own. Here are a few snapshots from the past few days.

Last night, I began taking down the Christmas decorations, which typically signifies that it’s time to get back to the day-to-day normalcy. As sad as I am to see the Christmas holiday go, I’m looking forward to getting back into a routine and plan to hold onto the hopeful feeling the season brings for as long as I can. In the meantime, I’ll be getting ready for our NYE party. Every year I try to simplify it as much as possible, but things still get a little hectic the day before.

Cheers!

Laura

 

Holiday Hosting and Raspberry Trifle

2015-11-19 11.40.36 This weekend, we hosted some of our extended family for a Christmas lunch. The first holiday meal I ever hosted was a Christmas gift exchange with my high school girlfriends. Of course, my mom did most of the the planning and grocery shopping, and over the years I’ve learned much more about hosting meals, parties, and tailgates thanks to LOTS of advice from my mom and LOTS of trial and mostly error.

I’m by no means an expert, but here are the key tips I’ve learned from hosting - whether it is a smaller dinner party or a large bash.

  1. Keep the menu simple: I like to plan my menu around food that I’ve made several times before. This way, I know the food will taste good, and I won’t have a melt down minutes before guests arrive since it's harder to botch a familiar recipe.
  2. Do as much work ahead of time as possible: Two nights before the event, I created my tablescape, set out my serving dishes, washed the holiday china, and prepared any food that I could get a head start on. The day before, I cleaned the house (minus the kitchen). This meant that on Sunday morning, I was only responsible for popping a couple of dishes in the oven, doing a light spot cleaning and vacuuming, and putting final touches on everything.  
  3. Delegate tasks if it makes sense: Since this was a smaller family gathering, I didn’t feel bad asking people to contribute. My brother-in-law brought the wine and each couple brought a side dish. Generally guests want to bring something or help in some way, so if the situation is appropriate, I encourage it and give them a guideline, such as, “It would be great if you could bring a salad.” Then I know that I don’t need to prepare a salad, and the generous guest knows they won’t be duplicating a menu item I’ve already made. Being fairly general also gives them autonomy to put their personal spin on the dish.

Here’s the menu I planned for our Christmas lunch:

Appetizer: Beaten biscuits with country ham

Main: Beef tenderloin, salad (brought by guest), green vegetable (brought by guest), mashed potatoes, and rolls

Dessert: Raspberry trifle, assorted homemade Christmas candy

Raspberry Trifle Recipe

This is the same dessert I made for my girlfriends in high school. It is a go-to recipe because it looks pretty and festive,  is easy to assemble several hours before guests arrive, and is practically no-fail.

  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 (10.75 ounce) package prepared pound cake*
  • 2 (10 ounce) packages frozen raspberries, thawed**
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, for dusting
  1. In a medium bowl, beat cream with 1/4 cup sugar until stiff peaks form. In another bowl, cream together cream cheese, lemon juice, vanilla and 1/2 cup sugar. Fold 2 cups of whipped cream into cream cheese mixture. Reserve remaining whipped cream.
  2. Slice pound cake into 18 - 1/2 inch slices. Drain raspberries, reserving juice. Line the bottom of a 3 quart glass bowl or trifle bowl with one-third of the cake slices. Drizzle with some raspberry juice. Spread one-fourth of the cream cheese mixture over cake. Sift one-fourth of the cocoa over that. Sprinkle with one-third of the raspberries. Repeat layers twice. Top with remaining cream cheese mixture, whipped cream and sifted cocoa. Cover and refrigerate 4 hours before serving.

*I love to bake, and I would normally make a homemade pound cake if I was serving a more simple dessert, such as pound cake with fresh berries. However, since I had a busy weekend and the trifle had plenty of flavorful ingredients, a Sara Lee pound cake from frozen foods aisle worked great.

**I bought a 26 ounce bag of frozen raspberries because it was a better deal at the grocery store and ended up using the entire bag. If you and your guests like raspberries, you may want to use a few more than the original recipe suggests.

I hope you're enjoying your holiday festivities!

Cheers!

Laura

Christmas Ornament Exchange

 
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As I mentioned in one of our previous Friday Favorites posts, my girlfriends and I love any excuse to get together even though the majority of us have scattered throughout the Bluegrass since college graduation. For Christmas, we decided to do an ornament exchange, and thanks to the careful planning of our friend Audrey, the event went off without a hitch.

I love the idea of doing events around Christmas where everyone contributes a single gift. Whether it is some sort of exchange or Secret Santa, it eases the pressure of feeling like you have to buy something for each of your friends, and you can take more time to just enjoy each other's company. I especially liked the idea of an ornament exchange because it was simple to find an ornament to contribute and easy to stay on budget.

If you're hosting a Christmas or holiday get-together, here are a few tips you can consider:

  1. Pick a central location. Because we all live in different Kentucky towns and cities, we decided to meet in a location central to all of us, Elizabethtown. This meant that the drive for everyone attending stayed under an hour.
 
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  1. Choose: Someone's home or a venue. We chose to meet for dinner and dessert at a local restaurant called The Whistle Stop, technically in Glendale just outside of E-town. While I love home-hosted get-togethers, meeting at a local restaurant was perfect for us because of the convenience factor. A lot goes into hosting an event at your home, so if no one in your group is prepared to take on that duty, restaurants or coffee shops work just as well!
  2. Set a budget. Budgeting is extremely important around the holidays, especially if you're in your early 20s like me and just getting started in your career. I don't pretend to know anyone else's financial situation, so setting a modest budget allows everyone to participate and be stress-free. While we didn't technicaly set an exact dollar amount, we made sure to emphasize that our exchange was about finding a cute ornament, not an expensive one. If this was a Secret Santa event, I would encourage setting an exact amount as gifts could potentially vary in values.
 
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On top of getting to see some of my best girls, it's safe to say I came home with a pretty cute ornament as well! (Thanks, Logan!)

How are you and your friends celebrating the holidays?

Cheers!

Sarah

December Bucket List

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As someone who lives by lists (daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, and varying other time increments), I thought I would share my December bucket list. Most items are fun and holiday related, but there’s one item that is mostly a big chore I want to tackle when I have a few days off work after Christmas. You should have no trouble spotting that one.

What are some things on your December bucket list?

Cheers!

Laura

Friday Favorites

 
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We made it folks! It's Friday! Time to give your friends a high five, do a cartwheel, and hit that dougie. But before you do, check out our favorites nuggets of fun from this week.

  1. Christmas Card Displays December is my favorite month for mail because I love receiving Christmas cards. I've never had a great system for displaying them, so I'm going to DIY one of these ideas this weekend. Now if I could just decide which display I'd like to try... - Laura
  2. Serial Season 2 The Serial podcast is a mutual obsession shared by Laura and I. We developed an intense curiosity about the story of Adnan Syed and his accused murder during season one. Season two is taking a different spin on things by looking into the story of Bowe Berghdal, an American soldier previously held prisoner by the Taliban and also charged with two crimes related to his supposed desertion from the Army. I listened to the first episode last night while cooking dinner, and I can already feel a new weekly ritual coming on. - Sarah
  3. Dogs Starring in Nativity Scenes Because is there anything cuter than dogs in costumes? - Laura
  4. Pickin' On Coldplay If you're a fan of bluegrass music, like all true Kentuckians are, then you have to check out the Pickin' On series. Pickin' On pays tribute to a variety of popular bands, but my favorite at the moment is their tribute to Coldplay. The bluegrass cover of Shiver will be your perfect soundtrack to a quiet Friday morning. - Sarah
  5. Ornament Exchange Even though most of my close girlfriends live all over the Bluegrass, we still like to get together for special occasions, holidays included. Next week we are meeting up in a central location (for us, that means Elizabethtown) for a holiday dinner and ornament exchange. Since many of us are just getting started in our careers, an ornament exchange is a fun way for us to treat each other to a gift, but also stay on budget! - Sarah
Cup

Cheers!

Laura & Sarah