Happy Holidays Indeed

I’ve spent a week filled with family, friends, a lot of working (you gotta love retail!), and cookies by the dozens. I may or may not have eaten approximately twenty cookies yesterday alone. I’ll leave that up to your imagination.

It has been an absolute blast, and when I have the opportunity to spend time with family I often walk away from it wondering why we don’t spend more time together. Seriously, when a Giambalvo met a Daleo magic happened.

Now I know why I’m getting those wrinkles…err, laugh lines.

Cutest Mamaw ever. She is pretty much the queen of this beautiful family.

Twins! For real, though.

Aunties, uncle, and momma…

I might have forced my sister to take this photo with me. Handwarmers are back baby!

Notice anything odd here?

This was one of the most famous pictures of the night…the tallest member of the family with the shortest members. My family gets a pretty big kick out of my husband’s tallest…which makes sense since our average adult height is probably around 5’0″!

Some dancing ensued…

Too much fun!

This was only the beginning of my Christmas gatherings, but unfortunately there were not eighteen italians running around with cameras at all of my other festivities. I am so blessed to have such an awesome family. I love each and every one of you! And before any of you (family) calls me and asks me to take one of these pictures down (because I know what you might be thinking)…my answer will be no (well, except maybe the shake weight picture!) You all look amazing and beautiful and gorgeous in each and every one of these, so I don’t want to hear otherwise!

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, too!

ang

I’ve Been Smiling A Lot

My goal for the month of December was to enjoy life and smile a lot. I must say, I do think I have been very successful achieving my goal thus far. Between laughing it up with my husband, spending time with my family, and catching up with friends, I could not have asked for a better month.

However, I have only logged a handful of miles in my old Asics, and I think they miss me. It always seems like such a great idea at night to wake up at the crack of dawn…or actually, before dawn…and get a good run in. When the morning rolls around the the idea sounds much less desirable. Much. Don’t get me wrong…I am missing hitting the pavement, too…but I’m definitely enjoying life a little bit longer in my warm bed!

And, I’ve been more than lacking in the food/cooking/eating well department. Between my peppermint bark rice crispie treats, and the cookie party I went to, I’ve eaten dessert for breakfast more times than not. I justified the rice crispie treats by reminding myself that rice crispies are cereal after all,  however it’s much harder to justify a sugar cookie.

But, sugar cookies and rice crispies make me happy, so I’m not going to worry about it! I call that a successful month!

I have big, big goals for two thousand and twelve, though, so prepare yourself. In the meantime, I’m going to live it up for the next eleven days and spend every happy moment I can before school, work, and running invade my life to the fullest. My 2012 wish list will be coming to the blog very soon, and expect to see a lot more about my running plans, my running goals, and eating and cooking well. You heard me right…cooking well. Oh, and running a sub-four hour marathon.

Oh wait, did I just say that?!

ang

Chocolate Covered Cherry Cookies

“Who made the chocolate cookies with the hidden cherries?????”

Why, that was me!

Let me rewind. Last Thursday evening I went to a cookie party at my lovely aunt Terrie’s house. Everyone brought three dozen of their cookies of choice. We all set out our cookies and admired everyones’ work. Then we formed a conga line (quite literally due to my aunt Andrea!) and went around the kitchen taking two of each different type of cookie and putting them in our own cookie boxes to take home.

A sweet tooth’s dream.

I have a big italian family, so there were many people at this feast of sugar, so most of the cookies, aside from my sister’s super-creative melting snowman cookies (ummm…cutest cookies EVER…definitely deserved best in show!), went pretty anonymous.

That is why I was ecstatic when I received an e-mail from my auntie on Friday demanding, “Who made the chocolate cookies with the hidden cherries?????”

Me me me me me me me me me me me!!!

They were not the prettiest cookies there. Definitely not. They were just brown blobs. The icing was brown and crackly instead of smooth and beautiful looking. The cookie part itself looked dull and not at all enticing. They probably appeared overdone, although they were not. Somehow though, someone was not afraid to bite into one, and that is when the surprise was revealed…

…a maraschino cherry!

You all know that I am not creative in the kitchen, so I cannot take credit for the recipe…I can only take credit for recreating a much uglier version, but still just as good.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 (10 ounce) jar maraschino cherries, drained, reserve juice
  • 1 (6-ounce) package semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup sweetened condensed mil

Preparation:

  • In a large bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder and soda, blending well; set aside. In a mixing bowl, beat together butter or margarine and sugar on low speed until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla; beat well. Gradually add dry ingredients to the creamed mixture; beat until smooth and well blended. With hands, shape dough into one inch balls; place on ungreased baking sheet. Press down center of dough with thumb. Drain maraschino cherries well, reserving juice. Place cherry in the center indention of each cookie.
  • In small saucepan combine chocolate pieces and sweetened condensed milk; heat over low heat until chocolate is melted. Stir in 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of the reserved cherry juice. Spoon about 1 teaspoon of the topping over each cherry, spreading to cover cherry. If frosting seems too thick, thin with a little more cherry juice. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes, or until done. Remove to wire rack to cool.

I’ll admit it. I forgot to add the salt…but what difference can 1/4 of a teaspoon make, right? And at first my dough was too sticky so I just added an unknown amount of more flour. I was confused at the fact that you put on the frosting before you baked the dough, and I almost didn’t do it…but then I remember what usually happens when I make up my own directions in the kitchen. Maybe all these little facts contribute to the overall less than appealing aesthetic of the little cookies…

…but at least they tasted delicious!

Thank you to all those who braved my cookies and then actually loved them. I do believe I am going to make them again!

ang

An Extra Special Merry Christmas To…

…Sarah from Once Upon a Lime!!! Merry merry merry Christmas girl! You are my giveaway winner and will be getting a stack of four Soap It Up soaps (and maybe some extra goodies!)!!!

(Please e-mail me at a.habermehl@yahoo.com with your mailing address!)

First of all, congratulations on getting married this year and celebrating your first married Christmas! That is way too fun!!! Second of all, cucumber cantaloupe and peppermint cocoa are two of my favorite flavors (okay, so they all might be my favs) and you will be getting BOTH of those! Woohoo!

I loved reading all your comments on why this time of the year makes you smile…you all made me smile! I wish that I could send a soap package to each and every one of you because I appreciate you all so much, but unfortunately going back to school has made me poor. I’m sure you understand. But…I will try to send you a bunch of Christmas cheer through my blog…did you get it yet?!

For now, I have to go get ready to do some Christmas shopping, get my cookies ready for my cookie party (YUM!), and wrap up my gift for my girlfriend’s gift exchange tonight!

Ho ho ho ho ho!

ang

Christmastime Makes Me Happy

I am having the best time reading all your comments on why the holiday season makes you happy! I would definitely have to say that getting to spend time with family seems to be the top reason, and I would have to agree one hundred percent! There is still time to enter the giveaway…all you need to do is go over to this post and leave me a comment telling me why the holiday season makes you happy! (You must live in the US, and you cannot be a relative! Sorry!)

This photo of my sister and me is from my most recent family get together this past weekend! Of course we had a blast visiting with the whole big italian family!

Because I have asked you to tell me why the holiday season makes you happy, I’ve decided that I’ll tell you why Christmastime makes me so happy.

Reason number one: Spending time with my family! Duh!

Christmas is one of the only times of the year when I get to see my entire family all in the same place at the same time. So many of my favorite family memories dating all the way back to when I was a little girl come from this time of the year.

Reason number two: Cookie parties!

Umm…you get to bake a ton of cookies, go to a party, eat a bunch of cookies, and go home with a ton more. This needs no explanation.

Reason number three: Giving presents!

It’s truly a fun feeling when you know you got something (or made something) for someone that they absolutely love! Many of my gift recipients have gotten (or are going to get, HA) homemade soaps this year, and I’m pretty sure they adore them. (If you don’t then you are crazy and should just give them back to me because I am now a soap hoarder!)

Reason number four: Getting presents!

Just admit it. You love getting something that you really really want. I was super stoked when the husband got me my new running shoes for Christmas…even though I picked them out, typed in the credit card number online, and opened the box when it showed up on my doorstep.

Reason number five: Peppermint flavored things!

I drank way too much coffee on Sunday and that was because my mom-in-law had peppermint mocha creamer at her house. I made some peppermint bark rice krispie treats for dinner club, and I also have a bar of peppermint soap that I’m going to have to show great restraint to use it for washing and not for eating.

Reason number six: Giveaways! Have you entered yet?!

Reason number seven: Christmas lights. Prettiness!

Reason number eight: Winter break.

Since basketball season has started I feel like I never get to see my bundle of 6’8″ handsomeness anymore. At least when he breaks from school I will get to see him more and we will get to sleep in together a few mornings!

Reason number nine: Spending time with friends.

This can probably be added to number eight, but many of my friends are teachers so I get to spend more time with them throughout the holidays as well. Please bring on the dinner clubs, cookie parties, gift exchanges, wish list parties, and New Years Eve parties galore!

Reason number ten:  Last but not least we cannot forget the true reason for smiling this holiday season. We get to celebrate Jesus’ birthday!

Woowoo!

ang

Happiest Time of the Year Means Time For a Giveaway!

The happiest time of the year is among us, and I wanted to celebrate and show my appreciation for you. I was doing some Christmas shopping over the weekend and I had a great thought. I have shared so much of myself here on this blog over the past several months which has been amazing for me, so I wanted to share some happiness with you!

If you’ve been stopping by this little blog at all for the past few months, you know that I’m a big believer in following your dreams, and I really think that anything is possible. That is why I am so proud of my beautiful mother for starting her own soap business this year. She found something that she loves to do, she made a plan, and she took a risk. I’m extremely happy that she did, because I have probably never smelled better than I do now. This home will never be without a stack of ridiculously delicious soap.

And now, one lucky reader will also get the opportunity to smell magnificent over the holidays because I am giving away a stack of four Soap It Up, Gourmet Soaps By Di! I’m warning you though, you will most definitely want to eat the soap they smell that good. I would probably advise against it, even though they are homemade. Yes, homemade! The soaps make excellent stocking stuffers or little gifts, but you’ll probably want to keep them all to yourself!

There are three very easy ways to enter:

  1. Leave me a comment telling me what is making this the happiest time of the year for you!
  2. Like Soap It Up, Gourmet Soaps By Di on Facebook and leave a comment telling me  you did!
  3. Purchase a Soap It Up soap online (here) and leave a comment telling me you did…(and tell me which scents you picked because I want to know because I love them ALL!) Leave a comment for each soap you purchase!

You have until the end of Wednesday to enter (you must live in the United States…sorry!), and you must leave a comment for each entry. (I know that many of my family members like to read my blog, and I am really, really grateful for that. However, I know that my family also has easy access to these soaps and probably a stack at home already, so I’m excluding family members from this giveaway!)

Merry Christmas from My Pinky Toes and from Soap It Up!!! Thank you for being a part of my blogging journey so far!

ang

Merry Christmas To Me

I pulled into my driveway after work yesterday afternoon only to see one of the most exciting things ever…

…Merry Christmas to me!

As soon as I got inside I ran to the front door and picked up the package. It wasn’t a surprise what was inside because the husband and I both picked out our own presents, which just happened to be tennis shoes for the both of us, but I couldn’t wait to see the little beauties in person.

I’ve heard that a good rule of thumb is to run no more than three hundred miles per pair of running shoes. I have had my running shoes since May, and throughout marathon training, then half marathon training, and add on top of that some cross-training and just running for the fun of it…I’m sure I at least doubled that three hundred mile limit!

I stuck with the exact same style of shoe as my last pair…why change something that’s already working great! They are Asics Gel Cumulus 12s, and they feel like you are walking, or running, on clouds. The only difference is this time Asics made my shoe with pink details instead of blue. It’s like they knew me!

The only sad thing is that I’m going to put these babies back in their box and wait until after Christmas to take them for a run. When the time comes, I’ll swap out those bright white shoelaces and put in my pretty pink ones and begin training for marathon number two!

Oooohhh, I can’t wait, but for now…yay for Christmastime!!!

ang

Pumpkin Train

Yes. I know it is December, which means that all of the hype over pumpkin-flavored food, desserts, and drinks is now over.

However, I just jumped on the pumpkin train only a few short weeks ago, and I’m not ready for this ride to be over quite yet. That’s right, until this year I never ate anything pumpkin. Not even the pie. But this year I have become just a little bit braver when it comes to food…I’ve eaten jalapenos (and loved them), onions (and loved them), mushrooms (and, oddly enough, loved them), and now pumpkin-y things and yes, I also fell in love with them. That picture of pumpkin pie…I ate it in December.

A couple of weeks ago I was assigned to bring the dessert for dinner club’s Thanksgiving gathering. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend (tear!), but I still wanted to make sure my family of friends had something sweet to eat after all their ham and casseroles.

Of course, I reached for my handy-dandy phone to open up my AllRecipes app for this recipe. It’s always my go-go cooking source. I know that all of you are over the pumpkin thing, so I’m not going to bore you with the recipe, but if you are interested in these pumpkin pie chocolate chip cookies, click here!)

I was baking away when the husband got home from basketball practice, and with a very concerned look on his face he asked me, “What are you doing, honey?” When I explained to him that I was baking cookies for dinner club he asked even more concerned now, “From scratch?”

Yes. I made these from scratch, and if I do say so myself they were pretty darn tasty. The term “myself” might actually be completely correct, because even though all my dinner club friends texted me telling me my cookies were delicious, I can’t be for sure they weren’t just trying to make me feel good. I did have to force my husband to eat one…and the word “force” is not an exaggeration…and I’m pretty sure my sister never ate one.

I can’t be for sure if anyone actually ate any at dinner club, but I guess I’ll take their word for it. They must not be too afraid of my dessert-making skills because I volunteered to make dessert for next weekend’s Christmas dinner club and nobody tried to stop me.

I promise, though, I’ll jump off this pumpkin train soon (probably when my pumpkin spice coffee creamer runs out) and I’ll be jumping on a new one soon. I’m expecting some very delicious peppermint and chocolate combinations in my very near future. Maybe this one from Miss Julie!

I mean, it is December after all.

ang

Fa La La La La La La La La

It’s December. DE. (Fa…) CEM. (La…) BER. (La!) When did that happen?

I must sound silly at the beginning of every month stating the obvious, the fact that time seems to be flying by at a ridiculous pace. But I can’t help it. It’s too true. Time is flying by. My husband is a whopping twenty-eight years old, I am almost twenty-six and a half years old now, Tia is going to turn three and a half at the end of the month, I’m noticing more and more gray hairs each day (all in the same location…thank you Mom), and I think it is now safe to call my laugh lines actual, real-life wrinkles.

But it’s all okay because it is December…which means it’s almost Christmas…which means it’s almost my favorite holiday!

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So many of my most favorite memories of family come from this month. My sister and I made up this game called “The Light Game.” At night when our mom or dad would be driving us around somewhere we would each look out the window and secretly count how many houses we saw that had Christmas lights. At the end of the trip when we’d arrive at our destination we would both reveal how many houses each of us saw, and whoever had seen the most would win.

Maggie would always make up a number that was actually a lot higher than her actual count. She always wanted to win…and she rarely ever did. Maybe if she hadn’t purposely broken her glasses when she was a kid then she could’ve seen the houses better. 😉

Normally at the beginning of the month I detail out a list of new goals for the month, but this time I am not. November was pretty awesome…I decided where I am going to attend school, I ran my second half marathon and PRed, and smiled a whole, whole bunch. It’s hard to beat all that.

This month my goal is just to enjoy life. This might entail some running…or it may not. It might call for some creativity…or maybe not. It might mean I will cook and bake a whole bunch…but most likely not. What I do know is that it will most definitely require lots and lots of quality time spent with my family, lots of laughs with my girlfriends, and some lazy snuggle time on the couch with my husband and little Tia.

Which is good, because I’m already planning out my goals for two thousand and twelve, and let me tell you, they’re going to be big ones! Come January I’m going to be a busy, busy gal (and I can’t wait!)

Merry December to you!

ang

Thanksgiving Scrooge

Yesterday something awesome happened that put me in an instantly amazing mood.

I heard Christmas music.

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Then I remembered that I have dinner club coming up in a couple weekends, and that can only mean one thing in my mind. Christmas ornament exchange. Yes please.

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And, because of Pinterest, all my dinner club friends should be expecting a homemade Christmas ornament from the Mrs. side of this couple.

I know what some of you, er, most of you are thinking. It’s not even Thanksgiving yet. And yes, at dinner club we are exchanging our Christmas ornaments, but we are having a Thanksgiving themed dinner (duh).

By the way…I’m pretty sure I brought bruschetta to this event last year. You can probably expect me to bring another italian (i.e. not Thanksgiving) themed dish.

I actually am aware of this, however, I’d rather skip right over Thanksgiving and sprint toward the Christmas season. You can call me the scrooge of Thanksgiving. I’m not a fan of turkey, or stuffing, or mashed potatoes, or casseroles that, because of their color, I’m sure are made with mayonnaise (even if they are not). In fact, on Thanksgiving you can find me carrying a plate heaping of green bean casserole (not to be confused with cheesy green beans that the in-laws make), three to four rolls, and a black olive stuck on each finger of my free hand.

Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the fact that we’re celebrating the pilgrims and the native americans and friendship and family and being thankful. I’m not an unthankful person, I promise. I am thankful for many things. Many. Many. Many. Things. I’m thankful for an unbelievably loving husband. I’m thankful for my princess Tia who puts a smile on my face seven thousand, three hundred and eleven times a day. I’m thankful for my family, most of which I don’t get to see enough, but all of whom I know love me dearly. I’m thankful for a second chance at a new degree. I’m thankful for all of my friends. I’m thankful for glue guns, colored markers (preferably Sharpies!), and coffee. I’m thankful for my health and my families’ health and my friends’ health. I’m thankful for Ali’s blog, which on Thursdays always reminds me of more things to be thankful for. I’m thankful for blog readers who motivate me to keep writing. I’m thankful for sweatpants, furry boots, jeans that fit well, and hot pink running apparel.

I’m thankful for pumpkin spice coffee creamer. I definitely jumped on that bandwagon. Why yes, and I’m thankful for it.

See, I’m thankful.

But I’m also thankful for Christmas songs, Christmas lights, the thought of a white Christmas, peppermint scented things, peppermint flavored things (bring on the peppermint mocha coffee creamer please!), red and green doggie sweaters (sorry Ti-Ti), wreaths, sparkly things, and of course, Barbara Streisand’s “Jingle Bells” and the memory of my cousin and I dancing to it when we were toddlers..

I mean, it’s only forty-seven days away. Definitely not too early for Christmas music.

ang