Holiday Recap

Oh hi there strangers!

I've spent the last week+ doing lots of relaxing next to my Christmas tree, drinking gallons of tea, eating tons of Christmas cookies, spending time with family and wrapping my head around the notion that my baby girl will be here in about 4 weeks.


We had a truly lovely holiday and I've just been savoring some extended time away from work and any real responsibilities. My biggest concern over the last few days has been what to scrounge up for lunch in our empty fridge and where to store all of our wonderful holiday gifts.

Not a bad way to get through the day if you ask me.

Shaun and I kicked off our holiday celebrations with an intimate dinner at Dino & Harry's in Hoboken. So many pretty wreaths, twinkle lights and delicious clams, steak and sticky toffee cake. We topped off the night with some Christmas movie watching by the tree.

After our annual Christmas Eve morning breakfast (this year at the Brownstone Diner, my new fave JC spot!), we spent Christmas Eve at my parents' house with my aunts, uncles and cousins.


We ate so many different dishes, including homemade saffron rice balls (my favorite), crab cakes, shrimp, stuffed mushrooms, stuffed jalapeños and more.

I sadly had to pass on the smoked salmon this year, but soon again it will be mine! As always, it always feels like such a special evening. My mom works so hard to make everything just perfect and it was a wonderful night.

On Christmas morning, we woke up and opened gifts with my family.

We received some great gifts! Shaun got me an iPad mini, a new tea kettle, an Urban Decay palette among other things. I received lots of new, fun jewelry, makeup, books and baby outfits, all of which I cannot wait to use!

We then got dressed and headed over to Shaun's parents' house for the remainder of Christmas Day. It was another fun and food-filled day with aunts, uncles and cousins! This was followed by the day after Christmas at their house as well for party part II!


I ate my body weight in holiday goodies and am pretty sure I put a few extra pounds on Baby H in the process! We are all hoping for a nice, chubby baby so I guess I'm doing my part to make that happen ;)

By the weekend, Shaun and I were just totally spent. I had one more holiday celebration...Leszer Christmas! This is an annual Christmas in the City date with my sisters and our best friends. We saw the tree at Rockefellar Center followed by a delicious dinner at Carmine's. And yes, my almost 9 month pregnant self made it on the subways, through the crowds, and home in one piece.

And that's how I spent the last week! Now I'm looking forward to quietly ringing in the new year this evening and returning to some sense of normalcy later this week. I hope you all had a fantastic holiday and have a safe New Year's Eve!

 

 

 

Five Things Friday

Well hello! Today is my last day of work for the year and I couldn't be more excited for the week ahead. I officially have about a week and a half off from work and it is a much needed break. I feel as though I've been over-the-top crazy busy for the last...6 months+?! And I'm ready for a few days of relaxation and savoring of the holidays.

With that in mind, today I'm bringing you the 5 things I'm most excited for between now and the end of the year.

 

{Our holiday date night}

Shaun and I love to take one night right before Christmas to just have a quiet celebratory date night. We usually pick a nice steakhouse that's illuminated with bright lights and Christmas wreaths. Though we love Edward's in Jersey City for this special occasion, sadly it is still closed following Hurricane Sandy. So instead, we are trying a different spot in Hoboken this evening!

 

 

{Our Christmas Eve breakfast}

It's a Cannon tradition and I am excited that we are going to a new spot this year - the Brownstone Diner & Pancake Factory in Jersey City (!!) Shaun and I had gone here for breakfast a few weeks ago and after raving about it to my pancake-loving Dad, it was decided that Christmas Eve breakfast it shall be.

 

{Finishing the nursery}

I've gone on and on about how hard we're working on it and even shared a moodboard. I'm hoping to have it 90% complete by January 1.

 

{Relaxing with a mug of tea, a plate of cookies, some Christmas movies and my feet up}

In front of the Christmas tree, of course.

 

{Savoring family time}

I'm excited for time with my husband, my parents, sisters, extended family and in-laws. I wish I could just press a slow down button, but since I cannot, I plan to just soak up all the time I can!

 

I'm going to try and pop in one more time before Christmas, but in case time gets away from me...I hope that you all have a wonderful, safe, family & cookie-filled holiday!

xo,

Rachel

 

What are your five things this week?

What do you have on your list to do before 2013 strikes?

Holiday Survey

I've never done one of these before, but I've seen them on many a blog and always love reading them! Since there's been little to no cooking going on in my kitchen (save for some pasta with jarred sauce!), I thought this week would be a fun time to partake! So here goes...

 

Eggnog or hot chocolate?

Gah I love both! But I don't think I could live without hot chocolate in the winter.

 

Does Santa wrap presents, or just leave them under the tree?

Definitely wrapped! There is nothing more fun than opening pretty Christmas paper :) Growing up, Santa always wrapped my gifts in one paper and my sisters in their own as well.

 

Colored or white lights?

I love both equally! We put colored lights on our tree, but I also adore the sophistication of all white lights.

 

Do you hang misletoe?

We do have a little misletoe ball but usually just place it on our terrace door knob. Our ceilings are 14 ft high and so there's nowhere to hang it really. We get by without it ;)

 

When do you put up decorations?

Usually the weekend after Thanksgiving.

 

What is your favorite holiday dish?

This one is SO tough because we make so many different things. I do love rice balls on Christmas Eve and spinach dip in a pumpernickel bread bowl always sings Christmas to me.

Favorite holiday memory as a child?

Baking cookies with my mom and enjoying Christmas morning all together in our pajamas.

 

What is on your Christmas wish list?

I don't have much this year because I'm just simply excited about our most special gift ever, arriving just after Christmas! ;)

 

Do you open gifts on Christmas Eve?

We exchange gifts with my mom's side of the family, and then Shaun and I exchange our gifts in the wee hours of Christmas morning after midnight mass.

How do you decorate your Christmas tree?

Multi-colored lights, shiny, glittery balls, and ornaments we've collected over the last bunch of years. My favorites are the ones from our travels around the world!

 

Snow? Love it or dread it?

I adore it! I always love getting at least one really good snowstorm per season, like the one we got the day after Christmas 2 years ago...

 

Real tree or fake tree?

I am happy with (and see the merits in) either one. Shaun is the one who insists on a real tree and every year since we've been married, we've gotten a great one!

 

Do you remember your favorite gift?

I've gotten so many amazing Christmas gifts over the years! Santa definitely went overboard in our house growing up. The best one ever, though, would have to be my Chloe, who joined us on Christmas Eve 1996, and she's still going strong.

 

What is the most important thing about Christmas for you?

Being with family and taking time to slow down.

 

What is your favorite holiday dessert?

Coooookies!

 

What is your favorite tradition?

Shaun and my holiday date night on Christmas Eve Eve and breakfast on Christmas Eve with my family...a tradition that my Dad started years and years ago. He would take my sisters and me out for breakfast so that my mom could have time alone at home to prep for the evening's festivities. Now that we are older, we continue to do this but the whole family joins!

What tops your tree?

Nada. Still haven't found something that we like, so for now she is bare.

 

Do you prefer giving or receiving?

I love giving gifts so much! I have such a great time picking out the perfect gifts for people and sitting in front of the tree and wrapping for hours. It makes my heart feel warm and fuzzy.

 

What is your favorite Christmas song?

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. It simultaneously makes me happy, nostalgic and want to cry at the same time.

 

Candy canes: yuck or yum?

Definite yum! Especially in baked goods or peppermint bark. Oh and give me a Candy Cane Hershey Kiss any day!

click image for source

Favorite Christmas movie?

I love so many, but if I had to pick one it would be Christmas Vacation!

 

What do you leave for Santa?

Cookies & milk, obviously!

 

Do you have a Christmas morning tradition?

We all gather in our Christmas pj's and open gifts! This is not complete without each of us having our own plate of Christmas cookies and A Christmas Story on in the background. Stockings get opened first!

Online or in-store shopping?

I have to say - I LOVE online shopping! Especially with Amazon Prime!

 

Do you send Christmas cards?

Usually, but this year I just didn't get to it! Next year we will when Baby H can adorn some pretty holiday cards in all of her cuteness :)

 

Now it's your turn! Either take the survey or answer some of your favorite holiday questions in the comments!

Living Through My To-Do List

Somehow today I'm officially 34 weeks pregnant. Um...whaaat?! Where is time flying to?! It's officially 6 weeks until my due date...and officially crunch time in the Humiston household. Couple that with fast-approaching Christmas and well...to say that I'm feeling stressed out is an understatement. I'm also trying my hardest to slow down and savor these last weeks and especially our last Christmas as a family of two (and a half).

 

Christmas 2011

To keep myself semi-sane, I have been keeping a serious to-do list of all things baby-related. I started this back in the summertime, when we first started discussing how we were going to transform our den (slash storage room) into a nursery for our sweet baby girl. As time before her arrival is coming to a close, I find myself crossing lots of things off the list...but also continuing to add to it! Here's a peak at what we've accomplished...and what is still on the list to cover (but hopefully that part of the list is a lot shorter!).

 

Baby To Do List

Clean out the den/future nursery to make room for Baby Girl (!!!)

  • Clean out toy box
  • Move filing cabinet downstairs
  • Clean out wicker baskets containing binders and other random items
  • Remove beer pong table
  • Remove side table
  • Move couch to living room
  • Move Shaun’s desk
  • Clear out bookcases
  • Clear out toy box
  • Put excess items in den closet
  • Dispose of bookcase
  • Dispose of paint cans

 Kitchen/Living Room updates

  • Move china cabinet to make space for Shaun’s desk
  • Get baskets for over kitchen cabinets (to store coffee pot, emergency supplies, etc)
  • Clean out butcher block & move
  • Remove side tables
  • Have outlet installed for Shaun’s work station

 In the nursery:

  • Wash all newborn & 0-3mo baby clothes, towels blankets, bedding (I'm about half way there!)
  • Organize all baby stuff (in drawers...closet is almost done!)
  • Pick up 2nd dresser
  • Hang artwork
  • Hang shelves
  • Pick up rocking chair from Mom
  • DIY alphabet frame
  • Bring baby gear that we don't need just yet to Mom's basement
  • Attach changing pad to dresser
  • Purchase bassinet or sleeper for our bedroom
  • Put together bouncer and mamaRoo


  • Put together crib
  • Buy soft storage bins for small white bookcase
  • Find artwork
  • Find frames
  • Install shelving/drawers and hanging bar in closet
  • Change light switch to dimmer
  • Shelf liners for dresser
  • Ikea - frames, shadow box

 

Other:

  • Research cord banking
  • Write general birth plan
  • Call/choose pediatrician
  • Start buying fabrics for weekly baby photos
  • Plan/schedule newborn photos
  • Pack hospital bag
  • Pillow cases for hospital photos
  • Email blast list for baby announcement
  • Take car seat for inspection
  • Print pages for baby book
  • Finish pregnancy book
  • Book & take childbirth, breastfeeding and newborn care classes
  • Research stroller and car seat
  • Set up registries (Babies R Us & Pottery Barn Kids)

 

So call me...crazy?

Whew! There you have it. My lengthy to-do list that has been in the making for quite some time now. I feel like we are definitely getting things crossed off but still have a number of things to do. Luckily, I think we will tackle a lot of what is left this weekend and next week. I'm excited to finish the fun stuff like getting the bedding set up in the crib, putting together the baby book (tutorial soon!) and working on my pregnancy book (I haven't posed for 20+ bump photos for nothing...)

For you moms out there...what am I missing? Is there anything else that should be added to this list?

And for everyone...do you live by your to-do list? Clearly I would not survive without mine!

 

Lately I've Been

...picking up this amazingly sweet 'Made in Jersey City' onesie for Baby H. Thanks to Kanibal Home in Jersey City and Nightingale Projects for the tip! Though this is technically the boy's version, I just love the little tugboat! And I think it will be sweet with pink pants.

 

...continuing to bake up a storm (but I think I'm just about cookied out at this point! The baking part, not the eating part!)

 

...getting my mis en place on

...reminscing about great times at The Stone Pony in my pre-adult, iron stomach days

 

...celebrating Christmas a little early with my Dad's side of the family

...eating lunchtime latkes

 

...continuing with nursery progress & crib assembly

 

...like the rest of the country, feeling ill, horrified, numb and about 100 other emotions over the Newtown tragedy. Unfathomable. I cried for hours on Friday evening and am left wondering how to live in a world where this could happen. I don't want to write a full post about this, but I'd be remiss to not take a moment for it. Praying for Newtown.

 

What have you been up to lately?

Friday Baking

Oh hi!

So it's Friday.

I love Friday.

Especially when I'm at home from work to do Christmasy things like finish baking cookies, wrap presents and watch holiday movies, especially since Shaun still has to work and I get the place all to myself. It's important to take days off to do that, right?

Over the last week, I got pretty far on my holiday baking wishlist. Today, I plan to finish off a few more batches, including:

7-layer Italian Rainbow Cookies

Red Velvet Thumbprints with Marshmallow Frosting

Soft Gingersnaps with White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

 

Outside of that, I also wouldn't mind baking a nice cake for a holiday gathering at my parents' house on Sunday. There's something about Christmas that makes me want a big, beautiful cake...not just a cupcake or a bar cookie; those are things reserved for summer barbeques and Saturday evening get togethers. But for a special occasion such as Christmas...a cake is simply what's in order. 

So if you have any recommendations for a great holiday cake, please send 'em my way!

And since I'm wrapping up cookie week today, I'm leaving you with one more A-mazing recipe that I love so much. I haven't had a chance to make these just yet this year...and not sure that I will (but perhaps I will do it if I have time or the inclination later on!) These white chocolate cherry chunkies from Paula Deen are truly delicious...soft, scrumptious and so easy. Not to mention, pretty to boot! I hope you give them a try!

 

I don't have much else to say today. I had a busy week and am looking forward to a fun and productive yet relaxing weekend ahead...a few more Christmas presents to buy and items to cross off of my to-do list!

I hope you all have a wonderfully fantastic weekend! Eat some cookies and think of me ;)

The Prettiest Cookie + 32 Weeks

Hi there!

I hope you've been enjoying holiday cookie week up in here. And today I'm not bringing you a new recipe, but one that I posted last year but which requires repeating again (and again!) because I just love it so much.

We discovered these gorgeous cocoa thumbprints in last year's Food Network magazine and when my cousin Veronica declared that they must be added to the list, we had a great time choosing different fillings for these pretty lil' things. I think they are the prettiest and most Christmasy of all the cookies we make. Not to mention that they are soft and cocoa-y and and all around treat! Head over to last year's post for the recipe!

 

Meanwhile, today I'm officially 33 weeks pregnant. Baby Girl is about the size of a pineapple this week which on one hand blows my mind and on the other, I can totally believe it. Here's my bump from last week:

Kinda large, no? 

I also had a bit of a shock when I saw how round my face looks in this photo. A lot different than even my 27 week photo, which doesn't feel all that long ago!

 

This week, when she is moving around...she is m.o.v.i.n.g. around! No joke. It's super fun because I can actually feel which side of my stomach she is curled up on and feel (and see!) her shifting positions. At my last doctor's appointment, he noted that he thinks the baby is head down and is fairly certain that it's a little booty right in the top center of my stomach. That pretty much made me melt, thinking about her little tush wiggling around right there. He also noted that he *thinks* the baby is on track to be around 8 pounds at birth. I can't wait to compare that prediction to what she will actually be!

For the first time thus far, I am actually starting to feel mildly uncomfortable in this body (like actually uncomfortable, not just being nitpicky). My hands are starting to swell (meaning both of my rings are officialy off) and my bump feels so huge that it's really a challenge to bend down, or even lean forward to pick something up off of the coffee table while I'm lounging on the couch. Oh and getting up off of the couch is a whole other story. Thank God I have Shaun to pull me up!

Oh and remember how I raved about the American Apparel tee's being perfect for a growing bump?

I still love them for their cuteness and extreme softness like no other, but...yeah, they are barely covering me now! I do think they will be perfect for right after the baby is born though. Until then, I'll be rockin' them short and probably switching to some oversized men's tees. Sigh.

Foodwise, I'm still digging my Raisin Bran Crunch...

but aside from that, no real cravings or anything. I have enjoyed my fair share of pancakes though, especially this past weekend at the Brownstone Diner & Pancake Factory in Jersey City! I dined on some oversized buttermilk pancakes with apple cinnamon topping. It was highly divine and part of our 'soak up our lasts' initiative on Sautrday morning.

 

 

We've also been making serious nursery progress, and here's another little teaser for you:

I promise when it's all done I will do a full nursery tour, but as of now, it's still got a ways to go! I'm continuing to wash baby clothes, towels and blankets which has been taking a surprising amount of time. I'm pretty sure Baby H has more clothes than I do! I also made a trip to Ikea to get some nice frames for my sweet little art prints. I can't wait to frame and hang them! Of course, no trip to Ikea is complete with out a $1 treat.

 

Lastly, we are doing all of our baby classes this week! Last night we had our newborn baby care class at the hospital (or as I like to call it: How Not To Kill Your Baby class) and it was very reassuring to hear about what happens right after birth and what is normal (and not normal) should anything be concerning regarding rashes, eye goop and more. We also swaddled, changed diapers and learned how to hold the baby. A lot of it felt very natural, but I think it was a good refresher for both Shaun and me!

I think that's about it for this week. I'm excited for the holidays and for right after because then we will be just about there! I get more and more excited everyday to meet my baby girl!

 

 

Eggnog Snickerdoodles + Tree Trimming

Admittedly, we finished decorating our Christmas tree a bit later than I would have liked. Usually we get our tree the weekend following Thanksgiving and decorate it that very same weekend, leaving a nice, long stretch of tree enjoyment for the season.

 

{I heart Christmas tree shopping!}

But this year, since the weekend after Thanksgiving fell SO early, we decided to wait until this past weekend to get our tree (so that it would last until Christmas!) and just finished decorating it last night. We always get our tree from the 14th Street Garden Center in Jersey City and have always gotten a beautiful, full Frasier Fir. Strong branches with light blue on the underside of the branches - we always fall head over heels for our tree!

Shaun and I tag-teamed the lights and the ornaments, which made for a nice, easy decorating session (followed by some seriously swollen feet for me!). Unfortunately we still do not have a proper tree-topper, but it's been tough to find one that we like. Someday, perhaps, we will find a good one!

 

So holiday cookie week continues over here and today I'm seriously crushing on these Eggnog Snickerdoodles. My sister Kim started making these many years ago and quickly became a necessary part of our holiday cookie tray. I'm not particularly turned on by snickerdoodles, but the eggnog flavor combined with the crispy edges and soft center makes these a true holiday treasure that I look forward to each holiday.

A bit of rum and brandy extract along with a hint of nutmeg take these ordinary snickerdoodles right over the top. Oh and the pretty red and green sprinkles are just the ticket to pretty Christmasy-ness.

 

Eggnog Snickerdoodles

2 1/2 C all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp salt

2 tsp cream of tartar

1 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 C granulated sugar

1 C butter, softened

1/2 tsp. rum extract

1/2 tsp brandy extract

2 eggs

1 tsp nutmeg

1/2 C colored sugar (we used both red and green)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt, cream of tartar and baking soda.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the sugar and butter together until fluffy. Beat in the extracts and eggs. Slowly add in the flour and mix until completely combined.

Move the mixing bowl to the fridge and chill for 20 minutes.

Combine the colored sugar and nutmeg in a small bowl (we used one bowl for red and one for green sugar sprinkles). Roll the dough into 1-inch balls, place on a parchment or silicon mat-lined baking sheet and sprinkle with the sugar mixture. Note: these cookies will expand significantly, so don't overload your pan! Bake for 8-10 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

Yields about 3 dozen cookies.

We packed these up for upcoming holiday parties, but I so wish I had some for breakfast this morning. I think they'd be perfect with some coffee, no?

Do you like eggnog? Snickerdoodles? 

What are the most fun holiday flavor combinations you've ever had in a cookie?