2017 is here, folks! Can you believe it? I seems like just yesterday I was making plans to kick off 2016. So much has changed since then! I doubled my number of blog posts, hosted my first recipe linkup, and am expecting a baby by the end of this month. So much excitement!
Every New Year, I like to share a review post detailing the most popular recipes of the previous year. This year I’ll also include a summary of the changes you can expect to see on the blog in 2017 (many of them are baby-centric changes). So in true New Year’s spirit, whip yourself up a cocktail, and let’s get started! I recommend our most recent recipe, a nonalcoholic cocktail called Sugar Plum Punch:
Do you have your drink? Ok. Let’s start by revealing last year’s top ten posts! The winners are…
Man oh man, the end of the year came up FAST. Christmas was wonderfully hectic this year. I made apple pie spice candied walnuts, coffee muffins, almond white hot chocolate, Reese’s Pieces chocolate chip cookies, honeycomb candy, almond toffee, wine-marinated frozen grapes, and SO MANY batches of peppermint humbugs! 🙂 So if I’ve seemed absent on social media or took forever to respond to blog comments, I blame the fact that Christmas was holding me captive in my kitchen. 😉
In the midst of the craziness, I still managed to crank out a menu I’ve been wanting to make for a looong time: food for The Nutcracker! I always have fun with festive, seasonal menus, and Nutcracker was no exception. Let’s take a look at what we made!
Welcome to our Nutcracker bonus recipe! I actually stumbled across this punch recipe while looking up how to make sugar plums, and it just sounded too delicious to pass up. Plus, it’s so easy. You just stir the ingredients together and serve! Talk about a no-hassle punch recipe…and just in time for New Year’s! 🙂
This year I’ve decided to close out December with a survey to get a better idea of who is reading my blog. This way, I can tailor my posts to my readership better in the coming year. None of the questions are required, but answering as many as possible will be very helpful. Thank you for your feedback! 🙂
Ok, you probably knew this was coming. We’re making a Nutcracker menu, so there’s gotta be sugar plums, right? Of course right! 🙂
Full Disclosure: When I first started planning this menu, I actually had no idea what a sugar plum was. I assumed it was dried plum that had been rehydrated in wine and rolled in sugar (which sounds delicious). But as it turns out, “sugar plum” is kind of a misnomer. It CAN involve plums, but it doesn’t have to. And they’re rarely the main ingredient.
Traditional sugar plums are hard candies that have been colored purple and surround a nut or spice. But there are also “Byzantine sugar plums,” which are made of a mix of chopped nuts, dried fruit, various spices, and sweetener (usually sugar or honey). This is the kind we’ll be making today.
Though I found lots of good recipes online, I decided to go with a slight variation on one by Bryt from Food in Literature since it had one of the shorter ingredient lists and her dried fruit combo sounded delicious (plums, apricots, and dates—oh my!).
So eat up, sugar plum fairies! We’ve got some dancing to do! 🙂
When I was writing a Top Ten Tuesday post last month for literary Christmas decorations, I came across an amazing array of bookish Christmas ornaments. So many, in fact, that I decided to give them their own TTT post!
This past Wednesday, the Mister and I celebrated our third anniversary!
Has it only bee three years? It feels longer (in a good way). On my first anniversary, I shared a post about my wedding ring, and last year I wrote about why I carried sunflowers in my bouquet.
This year, I’m going to write about something a little different.
As you may know, the Mister and I are expecting our first baby in a little over a month. It’s exciting and strange to think that this is our last anniversary as “just us.”
It’s tempting to think our family is just now starting out, but then I remember something the priest at our wedding said during his sermon:
“People will start asking you when you’re going to start your family,” he said. “When they do that, you tell them, ‘It started today.’ Because from now on, the two of you together are a family.”
That stuck with me. And when I look back at the past three years, I realize how much of it has been focused on building the two of us into a strong family.
After all, what’s being a family all about?
- Patience. No matter how much you love somebody, living with them requires patience. I’ve always been on the hot-tempered side, but I’ve chilled out a lot since Year 1 of being married, especially about domestic stuff. It’s made the little daily frustrations a lot easier, and I can feel it shaping me into someone who will be a better parent.
- Making Time. The Mister and I have LOTS of practice at this one, what with the two and a half years he spent going to grad school and working full time. And yet, we know that finding time for each other after children—and spending meaningful time with our children amidst the demands of daily life—is going to get a lot harder.
- Sharing What You Love. We have a tradition that every year on our anniversary we go to our local Brazilian steakhouse and eat like kings (Seriously. Fogo de Chao. It’s the greatest.). However, even though the food is amazing, the food itself isn’t the point. The point is to celebrate an important day doing something we both love (we share an abiding passion for good food). This year, I was super excited that Baby got to share in the tradition, and if the wild kicks in my tummy were anything to judge by, Baby was excited too. ^.^
- Making a gift of self. Marriage challenges you to approach life with a new generosity of spirit, but parenthood flat-out demands it. When I got married, my life wasn’t just about me anymore. And when baby makes three, the sharing will stretch even further. Motherhood is definitely a gift of self, but it’s building on a lesson that marriage taught me first.
- Creating a Home. I’ve always believed that the difference between a house and a home is the difference between a place and a person. I loved our first little newlywed apartment, but I wasn’t that choked up when we left. After all, my reason for loving it was moving right along with me. Soon, I hope our baby will able to share in the feeling of home that the Mister and I have created with each other.
Long story short, I’m pretty darn proud of my two-person family, which is part of why I’m so excited for it to grow! So when our first Little Miss or Little Mister makes their appearance come January, I’ll remind myself that my family isn’t beginning—it’s getting bigger. And I think I can speak for both the Mister and me when I say:
Welcome to the family, Baby. We can’t wait to meet you.
These cute little cheese wedges are my tribute to The Nutcracker’s main antagonist: the Mouse King! They’re super easy to throw together and simply delicious. They’re also really easy to customize based on what you’ve got in your fridge (I found lots of different versions on Pinterest and altered them to suit my needs). Whip some up to enjoy while watching The Nutcracker…or for your next Christmas party!
Normally I make a reading kit for my menu of the month, but since The Nutcracker is a play without any dialogue, there isn’t much to read. Still, I thought The Nutcracker would be a great theme for a series of Christmas gifts, so I present you with the Nutcracker Christmas Kit: a set of small Christmas presents themed around the famous play, perfect for giving to a friend…or saving as a gift for yourself! 😉
One of my favorite parts of The Nutcracker is when the Christmas tree grows to giant proportions. I wanted to include a tribute to the tree in our Nutcracker menu, and before long I stumbled across this clever pastry recipe from a website called Tavolartegust. I made a few changes to make it my own, and before long I had a delicious prosciutto and pesto Christmas pastry to snack on.
I think one of the best things about it is that is has that visual wow factor while still being really easy to make. You just put your filling between two layers of puff pastry, cut the pastry in a simple pattern (I’ve included visuals in the instructions below), and twist the sides into branches. Presto: instant Christmas meal! 🙂