A Very Buckeye Christmas

Well, we're back in Wisconsin after a whirlwind trip to Ohio to spend Christmas with my family. It was a fun stretch of 4.5 days, and just nice to be "home." It seems like the whole trip just flew by!

We left dark and early Saturday morning (out the door before 6am!) and were surprised with smooth traffic and a mostly uneventful drive.

But after nearly six hours, we were more than ready to arrive!

The long weekend consisted of plenty of eating.
My favorite local pork chops (Winner's marinated).

And no visit to Greenville is complete without a stop at the Maid-Rite (a Big Jim for me!)

We also enjoyed some extra-special beverages, including my favorite Christmas beer and the customary Christmas Eve Belini (not pictured).

My family loves board games, so there was no shortage of game time. Two of our favorites were "Eye to Eye" and "You've Been Sentenced!"
I'm especially fond of "You've Been Sentenced," because it's all about creating grammatically-correct sentences with given words on cards.... perfect for a word nerd like me. Let the record show that I went undefeated.

 Christmas Day was filled with plenty of gift giving...

...and receiving!

The day after Christmas, we received a late gift: A blizzard!
Although I'm not sure my dad thought it was much of a "gift" at this very moment...

We got nearly a foot of snow the day after Christmas - the roads were a mess!

So, because we were stuck inside, we had to make our own fun. The "Triple Cat Hold," consisting of Mr. Pancakes, Lieu Lieu and my parents' cat, Molly, had been in the works all week. Neither cat is too fond of the others, so we knew we were in trouble from the get go. Here is what ensued when my brother tried to hold all three cats.... in one second.
Triple Cat Fail.

After all the fun of the Triple Cat Hold, we realized the weekend just couldn't get any more exciting, so we knew it was time to head home.

I never feel like I have enough time when I'm spending time at my parents' house. Never get to see everyone I want to see or do all the things I want to do! But I'm so thankful to have such a fun, happy Christmas spent with my family and friends. Until next time, Ohio!


Merry Christmas!

Wishing all those celebrating a very merry Christmas. From Rachel, Eric, Lieu Lieu and, of course, Mr. Pancakes.


How to Properly Eat a Tim Tam

What's a Tim Tam, you ask? A Tim Tam is a chocolate wafer cookie with a chocolate cream center, produced and popular in Australia. Last Christmas, Eric's sister, who had spent some time traveling through New Zealand, introduced us to Tim Tams, and how to do the "Tim Tam Slam" with coffee. 

After my first "Tim Tam Slam," I was hooked. I spent the next 11 months looking through import grocery stores hoping to find Tim Tams, but never did. So I was completely surprised when walking through Target the other day and there they were, on the end of an aisle in the grocery section - Tim Tams! Pepperidge Farm is a sister company of the original Tim Tam maker, Arnott's, and apparently for the last couple years they release Tim Tams to Targets only between October-March. I quickly bought a box, anticipating my first Tim Tam Slam with my coffee the next morning.

So, what is a Tim Tam Slam? It's a delectable combo of coffee and Tim Tam, consumed just so, and very precisely, and is the richest, tastiest treat ever.

So here's how to do the Tim Tam Slam for yourself:

1. RUN, don't walk, to your nearest Target. Find the Tim Tams with the rest of the Pepperidge Farm cookies and buy AT LEAST 14 boxes. Okay, maybe you don't need that many, but after your first taste you'll want that many.

2. Prepare your coffee any way you like it. Pour it in a mug. Get your Tim Tams ready.

 3. Bite off opposite corners of the Tim Tam cookie like so:

 4. Take one of the bitten-off corners in your mouth like a straw. Then dip the opposite corner in your coffee and sip the coffee up through the cookie like a straw. But AS SOON AS YOU TASTE THE COFFEE COMING THROUGH, immediately remove the cookie from the coffee and slam the whole thing in your mouth.
What ensues is a melty, chocolatey, coffee-laced treat that is so addicting you'll immediately want three more.


Special thanks to Kimber for introducing me to Tim Tams and the Tim Tam Slam. I am forever changed because of it.


Your Weekly Pins

Another Friday, another week of pins! Here's what caught my eye on Pinterest this week...


[While my taste usually gravitates toward bright, bold colors, there's always been a side of me that loves simple, natural white. This bathroom looks so cozy and dreamy. And I absolutely love that window treatment. Beautiful.]

Corlette Curtain #anthropologie
[Speaking of neutrals and naturals, I adore these curtains from Anthropologie. I love the simple lines on them. So nice.]

[I've always loved that sprinkle-filled sugar cookies you can get from the grocery store bakery. I haven't had them in years, but this recipe for Christmas Confetti Cookies makes me want to whip up a batch right away!]

salty smores bark
[By this point it's not a surprise to see anything s'mores-related on there here blog. But this Salty S'mores Bark looked different... and enticing. It's a chocolate-marshmallow-graham cracker bark sitting atop shortbread cookie bars. I swear, I never get tired of trying new incarnations of all things s'mores!]

Clemence Dress from BHLDN
[This dress is just so pretty. I love the deep navy and ruffles at the bottom. When I saw it on double sale over at BHLDN the other day, I nearly flipped! But just as I was hitting "add to cart," the dress sold out in every size. Drat!]

Lindsay Plate Boots
[How gorgeous are these boots? I love the color of the leather and the little strap detail. Beautiful!]

how to tie a scarf like this
[I always get jealous of the different ways I see girls wearing scarves. Normally I only wear mine one or two different ways, but after watching te video tutorial for this Woven scarf knot, I'll definitely be working it into my repertoire.] 

Custom rubber stamps
[I've got a new infatuation with stamping. I don't know why - it just popped out of nowhere and now I just want to run all over the house stamping everything. So when I heard about a company that makes custom, inexpensive stamps, I got so excited! I see lots of fun stamps with custom phrasing on them in my future.]

UPCYCLED tshirt scarf. Would be a great way to use old t-shirts
[What a cute way to upcycle old t-shirts (which I have plenty of right now)! Create a t-shirt scarf. I would love to make this!]

I think I just found every baby shower gift for the rest of my life.
[Okay, so I know nothing about babies, but I know plenty about gettin' comfy, and this baby bean bag chair looks so incredibly cozy I can't see why a baby wouldn't, well, sleep like a baby in this!]

Give frozen homemade cookie dough instead of overloading with already made goodies...that way they can enjoy whenever.  Attach a greeting card with baking instructions.
[So often around the holidays you're gifted sweets and treats already baked for you. And the last couple years I've seen a lot of gifting of all the ingredients to make a cookie or treat, but I love the idea of giving a gift of frozen cookie dough balls. That way, when the mood strikes the giftee can just take a few out of the freezer and pop in the oven! No worrying about wasting already-made cookies or having to go through the process of mixing the ingredients and adding milk or eggs. So smart!]

Holy veil.
[This is a beautiful photo, but I just can't get over that veil! It is absolutely stunning, and matches her dress perfectly.]

There are plenty more where these came from! To see everything I pin all week long, follow me on Pinterest.


Peppermint Christmas Cake Batter Popcorn

I think one of the reasons I love Christmas so much is that it's the one time of year you can make at least seven different treats in a four-week period and people won't think you're that creepy lady who's trying to win her way into people's hearts with food (unless.... that's what people are thinking about of me?)

So far I've made Buckeyes, Martha Washingtons, Christmas Chocolate Surprise and two kinds of cookies.... but that hasn't been enough. I needed more. And I needed something salty, sweet with a hint of peppermint crunch.

That's where this popcorn comes in.

Remember a while back when I made cake-batter popcorn? That stuff is legit. That stuff is delicious. that stuff will be gone in three minutes flat if placed in front of me. For Christmas, I wanted to create that addicting quality with a special holiday flare. Enter crushed peppermint sticks and white-chocolate peppermint M&Ms. And, my friends, the pairing could not be more perfect for the season.

It's like a pepperminty Christmas cake with a crunch. This stuff would be perfect  for noshing on while watching one of your favorite Christmas movies with the fam. 

Or, it would also make for a nice gift, packaged in a festive bag. I put a little in a baggie and attached some instant hand warmers to leave for our mail man this year. You guys, we have the perfect mail man - he seriously looks EXACTLY like Santa Claus.... if Santa wore a postal service uniform. It's like Christmas Eve every day he delivers the mail. He's a sweet man - even jolly, I'd say - who always chats with us if one of us happens to be outside when he's delivering mail. This year, I figured our mail man deserves a special little gift. So if our neighbors' mail happens to have white-chocolate-and-peppermint fingerprints all over it tomorrow, it's all my fault.

But enough yapping.... all you care about is the recipe, right? Here's enough to make about 16 cups worth of the salty-sweet snack.

Peppermint Christmas Cake Batter Popcorn
16 or so cups popped popcorn (I'd recommend as plain a variety of popcorn possible. Instead of popping my own, I used Boom Chicka Pop brand bagged popcorn)
12 oz white chocolate chips
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup powdered yellow cake mix
Four candy canes, crushed
1 bag White Chocolate Peppermint M&Ms
Christmas sprinkles

Pour popcorn onto a large wax-paper-lined cookie sheet. Melt the white chocolate chips in the microwave in 30 second increments until melted. Stir in vegetable oil (gives the melted chocolate smoothness), then stir in yellow cake batter and crushed candy cane. Pour the mixture over popcorn, then mix with your hands to coat the kernels. Add M&Ms to the mix and finish with festive holiday sprinkles. Let the chocolate set and harden, then enjoy!


Your Weekly Pins

Another Friday, another week of pins! Here's what caught my eye on Pinterest this week...

Bedside table makeover with Spoonflower wall decal: http://blog.spoonflower.com/2012/12/project-revive-a-bedside-table-with-wall-decal.html#
[I love this update on an old nightstand. The printed paper inside is a fantastic, unexpected touch!]

White Chocolate-Gingerbread Blondies
[I've been on a real ginger-molasses kick lately, so these gingerbread and white chocolate blondies caught my interest instantly! They'd be a hit at any holiday get together.]

Mexican Wedding Cookies #25recipestoXmas
[I have always loved these powdered-sugar-covered Mexican Wedding Cookies. Small and sweet with a little crunch, they're always one of the first things I grab if I see them in any cookie assortment.]

Pinned Image
[Didn't I say I've been on a molasses kick? I can't wait to make these chewy molasses squares. The recipe said they're like a cross between gingerbread cake and molasses cookies... and anything combining those two is just fine with me!]

I love these flats
[These are just the cutest little flats ever. I love the stripes and those sweet little bows just add the perfect embellishment. Love!]

Glitter bobbi pins.
[I love these bright, fun hair pins. They're such a jazzed-up version of those boring old brown ones... you don't even have to try and hide these in your hair.]

Mustard Dress
[As history proves, if I see a cute, mustard-colored dress anywhere on the web, I'm gonna pin it. Case in point: This stunner above.]

Pretty Poppy Scarf
[I am crazy over this super-sweet scarf. It's got the prettiest print! But, sadly, it's no longer available. Drats!]

Roald Dahl's Book of Ghost Stories
[Years ago, one of my writing heroes, Roald Dahl, gathered a collection of his favorite ghost stories and made them into a book. I had no idea this book ever existed, and even though these aren't all his own stories, I just gotta have it!]

So cute... and appropriate!
[I love this cheeky little coffee mug. When it's cold, it looks like it's sleeping, but - just as it does for most of us - once some coffee is poured in, it wakes right up!]

Beautiful and fun altar garland
[Not only do I adore this fun, pretty and creative altar garland, but really the entire wedding is full of beautiful DIY touches and lots of fun.]

Adorable cake
[I loved this cake the instant I saw it. Sweet and simple, and I just can't say no to a touch of pretty (fondant!) bunting. Super cute.] 

Incredible + fun invites!
[I am drooling over this wedding invitation suite. The colors are magnificent, and it's so creative and fun. And this is yet another wedding that is just fabulous from bottom to top.]

[This happy little puppy just melts my heart. Look at that fluff! I need one. Now.]

There are plenty more where these came from! To see everything I pin all week long, follow me on Pinterest.


Buckeyes, Marthas, Ralphies and Elves

As Christmas nears, we're running out of time to complete all our favorite Christmas traditions. The three weeks leading up to the Big Day are always jam packed, and last weekend was no different!

On Friday we attended a Christmas party whose theme was "Dress as your favorite Christmas character." I'm a pretty big fan of themed parties, especially Christmas themes, so I was all in on this one. And, wouldn't you know it, Eric and I both happened to have Christmassy costumes at our disposal at home - we didn't even need to shop or make anything! 

Eric was everyone's favorite human-come-elf...

And I... well... this was a big moment for me. Really, it was a big moment for our relationship. Sure, Eric may have proposed to me alst year with a beautiful ring, but this year he proved how much he really loves me: He let me wear The Pink Nightmare from "A Christmas Story!"
"She looks like a deranged Easter Bunny...." As you know, Eric is very particular about his Pink Nightmare outfit.... no one else has ever worn it for an extended amount of time. The fact that he trusted me with it for an entire party? That's true love right there, folks.

We were a big hit at the party and we had an absolute blast. But we were just as excited fot the next day, filled with the two of us making our favorite chocolate-dipped Christmas treats!

Now, we make these every year, so it's nothing groundbreaking, but you know it's a good day when it begins with this:

With these ingredients and more, Eric whipped up a batch of his Martha Washingtons.

While I whipped up a batch of my beloved Buckeyes.

And, as tradition goes, when we've got enough leftover chocolate after dipping our treats, it's time to make "Chocolate Christmas Surprise," which, as I've mentioned before, if basically just a mix up of whatever is in our kitchen, dumped into a big pot of leftover chocolate and mixed around.

This year's mix comprised of Rice Chex, Cheerios, pretzels, peanuts, shredded coconut and dried cranberries. We really classes it up this year with the addition of those cranberries.

And of couse, after mixing it all up in some chocolate and then laying it out to harden, no Christmas Surprise would be complete without a fair amount of sprinkles.

And as if all the chocolatey goodness above wasn't enough, I just couldn't stop there. For me, Chrismas just isn't Christmas without frosted sugar cookies. I used my tried-and-true recipe, but this year kept it to trees and stars, in the pretties light pink and mint green icing I could whip up.
I've got to admit, I'm more than a little giddy over these ultra-girly cookies.

Christmas Goody Bonanza is always one of my favorite days of the holiday season... I love making the same treats each year and spending time in the kitchen with Eric. But there's no way I'm stopping here! I've got at least two or three more goodies I'd like to bake before Christmas comes... so stayed tuned. New recipes are on their way!



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