A Year in Review: Our 2011

December 31, 2011
When I think back on 2011, I'm overwhelmed with the amount of CHANGE in our lives.

We embraced January 1st, 2011 on the floor of a friend's guest bedroom, sharing one pillow, missing our family, and trying to find a plumber on New Year's Day to fix our frozen pipes.

It was not fun.

It was more than not fun - it was TERRIBLE. I remember feeling depressed and utterly alone here in Spokane.

But thankfully 2011 has been a year of GRACE as well. We survived our first wonky house (and it's ghetto plumbing) and acomplished, experienced and overcame a million other things. Most notably:

- We traveled to Eastern Europe on our first international solo trip. We flew into Germany and made our way down to Austria over 2 weeks. We did it by plane, train and automobile and had an amazing experience.

- I designed some fun Valentines, and styled a lovely Valentine's Shoot with Megan that is getting national attention!

- We celebrated Matthew's 26th Birthday with fondue, streamers and an oreo cake. He's the best.

- Matthew finished his first year of Grad School and is the shining star of his department.

- Eastern Washington University's Choir performed one of Matthew's original compositions, with him as conductor!

- We celebrated my dear friend Katie as she married her true love in Sonoma in April - they are the perfect couple!

- We traveled to NYC to debut a piece in Alice Tully Hall at the Lincoln Center with the EWU choir. I was able to tag along and spend some much needed time with the fabulous Laura Hall. It solidified our decision to apply to Columbia!

- We celebrated my 26th by moving into a new house! And Kathy also got me a kick ass juicer. Yep, it's that good.

- La Lune Events had a busy event season and made lots of dreams come true. It was such an experience! I feel so blessed to have been able to take part in so many special days. :)

- We traveled to Maine for a family reunion and had the best time! Our family lives on Deer Isle and we were able to go out on a lobster boat, have a clambake, see movies in the historic opera house, and relax. Best summer break ever.

- We found an AMAZING church that we love. It has made our time in Spokane bearable!

- Matthew started his second year of Grad School - strong as ever! His CV is comprable to that of Chuck Norris.

- I've expanded my design and photography work, taking on new clients and thoroughly enjoying my creative ventures. My videos are getting lots of attention!

- We flew back to California twice in November - once for a Musicological Conference in SF and Thanksgiving. Fabulous trips on both accounts!

- For the first time since our wedding, we took some rad pictures with Megan for our Christmas Cards.

- We celebrated Christmas for the first time with just our little family unit here in Spokane - and we survived!

And these are just the big things. We've both grown and changed a great deal, and for that, I am SO THANKFUL!

Tomorrow I'll post my list of my New Year's Goals for 2012 - I always get so excited for new beginnings. :)

How was your 2011?

Gratitude; lots of it.

December 28, 2011
(Thanks Pinterest!)

This just about covers it, don't you think? 

Whenever you get in a funk, make a list of all the things you're thankful for and I promise, you'll feel much better. 

Try it out.



Celebration & Transition

December 27, 2011
Operation Stay At Home for Christmas was a shining success! I won't deny experiencing moments of doubt, like say when we were Face Timing with family in Altadena or when Anna texted me a picture of all the siblings together.

( Moment of panic: how can we do this, be all alone up here in the snowy dark place that is Spokane?! We should be in sunny California! )

But in the end, it was such a lovely holiday. We relaxed, opened gifts, watched movies, went on quick family walks (it's freezing!) and enjoyed some really delicious meals. We were able to work on things that needed working on - for Matthew this meant reading a few books he's been wanting to read, for me it meant blog redesign (do you like?) and other design work that's been waiting for me during these past few busy weeks.

Truth is, I am so amped for the new year. I have a million things swirling in my brain. So many good things - so many changes that are waiting in the wings for the right time. I can't wait for 2012!

 My immediate attention is brought to deep cleaning our house - because Kathy is coming to visit soon! She'll be here for a few days the first week of January, and I'm excited to show her all the, um, well all the great.....things.....about....Spokane....Okay, I'm excited to see her and hang out nonetheless.

So for now, it's back to reality. Does this mean I have to change out of my pajamas now?


Festivities of Joy: Christmas Morning

December 25, 2011
This morning I woke up feeling like a little kid. I laid in bed, my body vibrating with excitment and my mind willing Matthew awake. I gave him until 6:15, then I started in.

"MR! It's Christmas! It's light outside! Let's get up!"

"Jessica, it is not light outside. That's a strong street light bouncing off the snow, you psycho. Go back to sleep."

I would not be silenced.

After getting Numi to jump on the bed, and with promises of warm drinks and treats, I had my man.


Christmas 2011


Christmas Eve Brunch

December 24, 2011
Since Matthew and I are on our own this Christmas, we really wanted to be as celebratory as possible. This includes, but is not limited to: spontaneous Christmas music infused dance parties, reading Christmas stories, snow angels, and watching classic Christmas movies (as previously explained). 

And of course making reeaally good food.

This morning we woke to huge snowflakes and one very excited pup. Matthew curled up in our kitchen chair and read aloud while I made a very simple but delicious Christmas Eve morning brunch. This recipe is based on one very good casserole made by my sister-in-law Anna, with a few extras added in. Paired with a Mimosa - just right.

Sidenote: Does anyone else detest the word "casserole" as much as I do? I feel like it conjures images of salty trays of creamy mystery goop. Do we ever hear of some famous chef raving about a casserole?

Okay, that was out of hand. It is Christmas after all. Humble casserole, I apologize.

Nevertheless, I file this dish under "Semi-Crustless Rectangular Quiche...of Sorts."

The ingredients are extremely customizable for this dish - I used the cheese I had on hand, vegetables that needed using up, and bread that was getting stale. Feel free to go crazy.



8 Large Eggs
1/2 Cup Milk
1/2 Cup Half & Half
Loaf of Artisan Bread, sliced
Sweet Italian Chicken Sausage - About 5 large links, casings removed
1/2 Bag of Spinach, lightly sauteed
1 Small Onion, sliced along the pole, lightly sauteed
1 Smallish Head of Broccoli, lightly sauteed
Assorted Cheeses (Chedder, Gruyere, Feta, Goat - whatever you have)
Assorted Spices (S+P, Garlic Powder, Red Pepper Flakes, Sage - whatever you like)

Start out by preheating your oven to 375 degrees.

Lightly grease a 9x14 rectangular baking dish and line with sliced bread. (I had never done this before, but when Anna made it this way it was delicious.)

Cook sausage in medium skillet, breaking it up into smallish bits. Remove sausage and set aside, and use the remaining oil/sausage bits to lightly saute the onion, broccoli and spinach. (This prevents a soggy casserole.)

Layer ingredients (vegetables, sausage, cheeses) in a pleasing manner. And by that I mean do it however you want. It will turn out fine, trust me.

In a medium bowl, beat eggs, milk and Half&Half together. Add desired spices. Pour mixture evenly over dish, making sure that all of the bottom layer is saturated.

Bake for approximately 25 - 30 minutes; let sit for 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Merry & Bright

When I was a kid, Christmas Eve was a big deal. Growing up in a divorced household with multiple families to see the next day, Christmas Eve was always my favorite. Our family would gather at my grandmother's house early in the afternoon and we would play games, enjoy culinary adventure (let's just say that foods made in molds still frighten me), exchange gifts and enjoy being in one place all together. My grandmother was well known for her enthusiastic expression of Christmas Decor - nearly every inch of her home was covered in some ode to the season. And true, most years involved some sort of familial drama or passionate conversation, but embracing the yearly tradition was something I always eagerly anticipated.

I approach Christmas Eve in a different way, now. My heart is heavy with the memories of my loved ones that are now gone - my parents, my grandparents, my friends. I wish we could gather together in that same way, talking and laughing and eating and fighting over who actually won Balderdash. Teasing each other about who has to eat the jello salad. When family gatherings were pure celebration instead of a bittersweet time of remembrance and gratitude.

This Christmas Eve, I am so grateful. I look at the calendar and realize that nearly another whole year has passed and my life is more wonderful than I could have imagined. While my heart will always be a little bit broken and missing what I don't have anymore, each year it gets easier to embrace the absolute joys of this time of year: my dear family, who may get the award for most bizarre, but who are priceless to me; sharing Christmas with Matthew and our black pup in a frozen Spokane; decorating the tree with my childhood ornaments; making stockings; receiving brightly adorned packages and loving Christmas Cards; and most of all thanking God for blessing me so, so richly.

So tonight Matthew and I will be alone. It will be a change, that's for sure. Instead of a large family gathering we'll make capellini and drink some wine. We'll probably watch a classic Roy Christmas movie - and yes, I'm referring to a quality selection from the Die Hard series. It is a brand new thing for us, but I'm excited to build our own family traditions. The only thing I know for sure: they definitely will not include jello salad. Thank God. 

Merry Christmas Eve!

DIY Wool Felt Stockings

December 20, 2011

Post Update 12/3/17: well it's been six years with these stockings and I still love them! I never ended up embroidering our names, but with a little hot glue gun action I added our initials in red felt. Have you made these? I'd love to hear about your experience! xoxo

Growing up, stockings always trumped Christmas presents.

My Mom hand-stitched us stockings and filled them with absolute treasures - and I am hardcore obsessed with continuing this tradition. I still have my childhood stocking (I'll never let go, never let go) but Matthew was in need of one, so I decided to make a new pair for the two of us this year.

I was going to attempt felting old wool sweaters, but never got my act together. So off to the fabric store I went! I'm 100% over anything resembling burlap-vintage-lace-old lady-quilt-ish-ness, and wanted a fresh, modern twist on the classic stocking. I found a great felt - a wool blend that has a good weight and great coloring. You can bust these out in an afternoon - definitely by Christmas Eve!

What you'll need to make 2 stockings:

3/4 Yard* Gray Wool Felt
1/4 Yard each of Accent Colors (My light green looks Army green in the pictures, but it's more yellow green in person)

*The rolls of felt were 32" wide, and when folded over you'll have enough felt for 2 stockings, plus extra. 

 Step 1: Fold gray felt in half, so that it measures 18" wide. Cut stocking shape into gray felt. I eyeballed it and truth be told, they look a little wonky. In don't care. Personality, right? If you're a perfectionist, find a stencil online.

Step 2: Cut out leaves, embellishments, etc. and place on stocking.

Step 3: Using a hot glue gun, lightly glue the felt accents on front of stocking. (Honestly, I went back and forth about using a hot glue gun. My mom was all about using one needle and thread to make our stockings...but since I was going to hand-stitch the edges, I figured I'd take the shortcut here. For all of you crafty people out there, I ask for your forgiveness. )

Step 3.5: At this point, if you want to add a name, now is the time! I was going to stitch MR and JR into our stockings, but then...I was tired. Maybe next year. You can stitch the names in, use an iron-on patch of sorts, or use another preferred medium.

Step 4: Using the embroidery needle and metallic thread, stitch the edges closed.

Step 5: Cut a small strip of red felt and sew into a loop at top of stocking.

True, there are stockings out there that look way more normal/cool/put together/etc., but I really like these. Heck, if I can rustle up some cute stockings a few days before Christmas - you can too! Best of luck. :)

Merry Christmas! xoxo

Festive Photos, 2011 Edition

December 19, 2011
Friends, I am so excited to share with you our Christmas Pictures this year! We aren't the sort of people to get formal pictures taken all the time, but Megan of Easy Dreamer Photography offered to capture our Holiday festivity - and we LOVE them! Matthew and I realized that the last decent photos of us were taken at our wedding - almost 5 years ago - and that it would be awesome to have some current ones taken. We ventured out into our snowy neighborhood and Megan just started snapping away. 
Thanks Meg for a fun afternoon and for some seriously lovely pictures. 


The Smell of Frosting in the Air...

December 18, 2011
Yesterday I spent a few foggy hours surrounded by sugar cookies, frosting, edible glitter, cranberry mimosas, lovely conversation and all out frivolity. My dear friend Pam lives in a gorgeous Victorian home that is more amazing than I can say - most of the year it is a premiere wedding venue here in the Northwest. Amazing.

There isn't a better hostess out there - thank you Pam for inviting me! I had a great time. :)


Lemon Almond Sugar Cookies

December 17, 2011
Sugar cookies have never been my thing. I'm much more partial to dark chocolate chip oatmeal or peanut butter or well, really any other cookies aside from the basic Sugar cookie. I rarely make them, but Christmastime is the exception - especially when I'm invited to the lovely home of my dear friend Pam for her annual cookie decorating party. So I turned to my stack of cookbooks, then to online bloggers for tips on making the best sugar cookies.

I decided that if I was going to make a sugar cookie, then it would be a dang good one. Really delicious. With almond notes and bright lemon zest. One that sort of melts in your mouth and doesn't just taste like sugary play dough.

I found a million tips out there - real butter, refrigerate the dough, cream cheese, etc. - so I used my best judgement and borrowed from a few recipes to create, in my opinion, some seriously good cookies. They taste creamy but aren't too heavy or dense, with a deep almond flavor and bright sunny lemon finish. If you're in need of a good sugar cookie recipe, I highly suggest this one!

Yields 2 - 4 Dozen, depending on size

The Essentials:
1.5 Cups Unsalted Butter, softened
1.5 Cups Sugar
1/2 Cup Powdered Sugar
4 Large Eggs
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/2 teaspoon Almond Extract
Zest from 3 Small Lemons
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. (After extensive research on the subject, I went with 400 degrees as most testers reported great results and quick cooking times.)

Cream the sugars and butter together until thoroughly mixed and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well between each addition. Add extracts and zest, mix well.

Add two cups of flour, baking powder and salt. Mix well. Add remaining flour on cup at a time.

At this point you have two options: wrap dough in plastic wrap and freeze for later, or roll out on a floured surface. I wrapped up half of the dough, and found that I was still able to make 2.5 dozen cookies.

Roll out on floured surface, approximately 1/4 thick, or thinner if you prefer. Cut with cookie cutters into desired shapes - our favorites were little sheep, hearts, scallop-edged rectangles, angels, doves, and alphabet letters.

Place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 7 minutes. The cookies will not have brown edges or be crispy - I prefer a lighter, softer cookie. But if you like crispy leave in for 8-9 minutes.