Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Last Post of the Decade

Tomorrow, my darling fiance and I are flying to Switzerland where we, along with his lovely family, will enjoy snow, skiing, and lots and lots of cheese.
I have a couple more hours of work, and then I have to go home and pack. In case anyone is curious, here are my trips for traveling in cold weather.

1) If you are OCD about mixing certain colors (no brown & black or navy& black for me!) then choose your color scheme wisely. When I travel, I choose either brown or black as a basic color and stick with it. That way I don't wind up packing both brown and black shoes and purses.

2) Pack (or, even better, wear on the plane) a heavy coat. Pair this with a warm hat, scarf and gloves. Make sure that your purse strap fits comfortably around the arms of your coat and rests on your shoulder. A purse with a short strap gets annoying very quickly when you have to wear a coat.

3) Bring one heavy sweater. This sweater should be comfortable, have a button or zip front, and be in a dark color that doesn't show stains. If you get it dirty, keep in mind that you'll be rinsing it out in your hotel sink. Also, mind the sleeves. These are lessons I learned the hard way after bringing a cream colored pullover sweater with bell sleeves to Switzerland the first time I went. I wore it once (so inconvenient!), then wore my black button-down the rest of the time. If you don't mind going casual, you can also bring a dark colored fleece or use it in place of the sweater. I will say that all fleeces are not created equal. The ones I have from Old Navy, for example, are not very warm compared to the ones I have from ski apparel brands (think Spyder or Northface or Columbia.) I would avoid sweaters or fleeces with hoods or big collars because they can bunch up annoyingly under your coat.

4) Bring as few pairs of shoes as possible. Shoes are heavy and take up space. So if you pack any extra shoes, try to wear the bulkier ones on the plane. Also, make sure your shoes are comfortable. Shoes you don't wear b/c they kill your feet are a waste of space. If you are going to be walking around a lot, I would advise against Ugg-type winter boots. I have a pair and have used them as snow boots for the past couple of years. They are waterproof and very soft, but they aren't very supportive and my feet always hurt as a result. Also, since you'll be dealing with airports, make sure that you can get your shoes on and off fairly quickly. It makes security much less of a hassle.

5) Shirts- bring one shirt per day. I tend to wear knit shirts or light sweaters because I would rather not iron my clothes, and not every place comes with an iron.

6) Pants- you don't need as many as you think. I will probably pack 3 pairs of pants (2 jeans and 1 corduroy) for my 12 day trip, and honestly, I could probably get by with 2 pairs- I know it sounds gross, but you really don't sweat very much in the winter, so they stay pretty clean, especially if you wear an under layer (see below). Again, go with dark colors so if you spill something on them, you can rinse them out.

7) Pajamas- Pack one pair for every 3 or 4 days of vacation. I like long sleeved knit or flannel PJ's better than fleece because if the room is cool you can always add more blankets- I think it's easy to overheat in fleece PJ's.

8) Undergarments- I always pack plenty of socks and underwear because they don't take up very much space and are pretty crucial. Another important cold weather undergarment is a pair of cuddle duds.

So my basic cold weather outfit is jeans tucked into winter boots, topped with a colorful long sleeved knit shirt and a black button down sweater. I throw on a good coat, scarf, hat, and gloves to go outside, and if I'm going to outside for a while (and it's really cold), I'll be wearing cuddle duds underneath my clothes.

The bottom line is that you will always end up packing more stuff than you need, but if you pare it down as much as possible, it will be easier to carry your luggage, you won't have to worry about extra fees at the airport, and there will be extra room in your bags for souvenirs when it's time to go home!

I'm sure there are more tips to be had because I'm not an expert packer, but this is what I've learned through trial and error.

I won't be back home until 2010, so until then, have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year!!!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Morning After

Our Christmas party last night was lots of fun! Of course, I'm totally ignoring the fact that every glass in the house needs to be washed in favor of blogging.
I was very pleased with the food I made this year. I did a couple of things differently than I had planned- namely, I made hazelnut bark instead of chocolate chip cookies, and the stuffed peppadews (which I accidentally called pequillo's in the last post) didn't use up all of the goat cheese and chive filling, so I used the rest of the filling as a dip. I got a lot of good feedback about all of the food- I'd say that the Rotel dip was the biggest hit, I could have doubled the recipe and probably wouldn't have any left-overs. Everyone loved the bacon wrapped water chestnuts too. The fruit pizza and baked brie were also popular items. I was grateful for the pickled veggies, especially as the evening wore on- it was nice to reach for a piece of pickled okra instead of something unhealthy when I got snacky later in the evening.
My friend Stephanie brought some cookies she calls shorts (I think they are something like this recipe), and my friend Julianne brought fresh satsuma slices that she'd dipped halfway into dark chocolate. They were both excellent!
Our drink menu was great this year too. We had poinsetta cocktails, gluehwein (cook over low heat 2 bottles of red wine, 2 cups of sugar, the juice of one orange, the orange itself, 3 cinnamon sticks and 10 cloves for about an hour- being careful not to boil the wine), brandy milk punch, peppermint patty shots, and brandied port (brandy, port, and a twist of lemon).
I am sitting on the couch blogging while wearing the snuggie that my brother gave me for Christmas. I've certainly mocked snuggies in the past,but there is something to be said for being able to drink my coffee without having to adjust my blanket. Also, Homer is obsessed with the snuggie. He slept in my lap for 2 entire hours the other night because I was wearing the snuggie and watching a movie.
In other news, the shower in my bathroom has decided to stop working. I usually have amazing water pressure (and copious amounts of hot water), but the water just stopped coming out of the shower head in the middle of my shower yesterday. This has happened to me before at a previous apartment (although that apartment had only a shower head and no faucet, so I occasionally had to bathe using a pot full of hot water, which reminded me of Miss Honey in Matilda...this time I just crouched under the faucet and cursed loudly while trying to rinse my hair) and I think that the problem is that there are solids clogging up the line (a few rusty chunks came out of the faucet yesterday and today, which supports my supposition). Of course, I'm hoping that it will clear itself up in a couple of days (my old place often did) because if we call the landlords now, they probably won't be able to send someone over until we are out of town. Given that there are two cats in my house who have to be kept apart (we're not ready for Pancake to meet Homer until he no longer limps), we'd rather not have strangers in the house opening doors while we're gone. So worst comes to worst I'll have to use my darling fiance's shower for a couple of days. His water pressure is actually pretty lousy, but it's certainly better than nothing. Just now the pipes in my bathroom were making a horrible noise, so maybe the water will start up again soon.....this is the price of living in a charming old house!
My darling fiance and I opened our Christmas presents to each other on Thursday night so we would have more seating for our Christmas party. (The tree is sitting in our bay window, which serves as a bench when we entertain.) He gave me fuzzy socks, a new running shirt that is both long sleeved and reflective, another pair of Lululemon yoga pants, and a Wii and Wii fit kit! I've been wanting a Wii for years, so I am really excited to finally have one! I'm planning to play with the Wii fit this afternoon (which is a good incentive to get my house cleaning done).
As for now I think I will finish my coffee and read through my google reader before I get up and clean. It's nice to relax. Aside from two days of work this coming week, my holiday stress is pretty much behind me. I do have to pack and I have both a long run and a brunch for my book club at Dante's Kitchen to look forward to tomorrow. I leave for Switzerland on Wednesday!
Happy Holidays!!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sunday, December 13, 2009


I really love kale. A week or two ago, I discovered that Rouses was selling giant bags of chopped kale and I've become a little obsessed. It started with kale and white beans. I like to simmer several cups of kale with 2 cans of Great Northern Beans,1 can of beer, lots of pepper, a generous dash of hot sauce, a little sausage (optional), and several dashes of Worcestershire sauce for an about an hour. So good! I made a big pot this evening so that I can have white beans and kale for lunch all week!
I've also made Kale and Spaghetti, and tonight I had roasted potatoes seasoned with thyme (topped with hot sauce and ketchup) andsauteed kale (prepared like the kale in the kale and spaghetti recipe) topped with a poached egg for dinner. It was amazing!
I've even tried making a green monster with kale. (Confession- I prefer spinach.)
So if you've never tried kale, I urge you to do so. It has a very mild taste compared to other greens, and it is a perfect addition to hearty winter meals. And of course, it's really good for you!

P.S. I made another Kale recipe today- Chickpea and Kale Stir Fry. It was amazing and took all of 20 minutes. Seriously, go make this now.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Rather Busy

This is the time of year in which I live by my to do list! I am pooped and am staying in tonight. :) I must say that I have accomplished a ton this week- both in terms of socializing and in terms of getting important tasks out of the way.
On the social front, I went to book club. We read The Help, which was really good. It's been my favorite book so far. Up next is Cleopatra's Daughter. I also went to a holiday happy hour hosted by my local sorority alumni club (Kappa Alpha Theta, if anyone is curious, and I'm actually the treasurer of our club this year) at the Swizzle Stick Bar (one of my favorite places for creative cocktails), and I had dinner with my friend Heather last night at Il Posto Cafe.
On the task front, one of the most notable things I did this week was get two of the four remaining outside cats fixed at the Southern Animal Foundation. Trapping the cats was actually kind of scary because they went nuts when the trap door closed and I had to wear work gloves to move the boxes because I was afraid that they would bite or scratch me through their cages. However, I am really glad I got it done because the two cats I caught were actually both girls. I'm so glad I prevented two more litters from being born this year! The remaining two cats are boys and I have an appointment to trap them and have them fixed in January.
In other news, I am psyched to say that I got a pair of Spyder ski pants for $30 yesterday! They are actually little girl's pants- my current ski pants (which fit but are old and kind of out of date looking) are a girl's XL (ski clothes run really big!) and I looked at the measurements and realized that I could totally fit into the Spyder girl's size 18. They were marked down to $80 from $100 on Amazon.com. I also knew that my mom had gotten me an Amazon gift card for Christmas. I thought it was for $25, but when I called her to get the number, she said it was for $50. Score!! My pants should be arriving Monday. :)
Today I was as busy as can be. I'm facing a big deadline at work, and I had a bunch of errands to run afterward. I actually trapped the cats last night and took them to the vet this morning. After work, I first dropped by Massey's for waterproofing spray for my new snow boots (Amazon sales have been good to me this fall), then I stopped and looked at the bridal shop (Pearl's Place) down the street. It recently occurred to me that since I want a fitted dress and I don't want a train, a good option for me might be to order a Bridesmaid's dress in white. A lot of bridesmaid's gowns were too shiny, but I really liked this one. It's significantly less expensive than a standard wedding gown, but what I really like is that it weighs so much less than a wedding gown! I know it's a weird thing to be excited about, but I was walking through the store trying to get a better look at some of the wedding dresses, and whenever I would even move one on the rack, all I noticed was how heavy they were! It made them very unappealing to me. Anyway, I think that the dress is really cute on me too. I love the single shoulder strap and the horizontal pleating. I took a picture on my camera phone (please ignore the weird face I'm making and my strange hair)- what do y'all think? You have to picture it in white, of course. After that I went to Symmetry and priced wedding bands (because we have been working out our budget this week- fun stuff), and was pleasantly surprised that my initial guess for that part of the budget was too high. :)
After that I picked up a couple of Christmas presents (I'm officially DONE!) and then went and got the cats from the vet.
Tonight I still need to finish wrapping presents and then wash the dogs because tomorrow is my family's Christmas party in Gulfport. I don't think I've mentioned it on the blog but for the past few years I've gone skiing in Switzerland with my darling fiance and his family during the actual Christmas holiday (hence the snow boots and ski pants), so I celebrate with my family early. I'm looking forward to tomorrow because I got everyone some great presents and I can't wait for them to open them.
Okay, less blogging, more work! Have a good weekend everyone!

Sunday, December 6, 2009


I have to post a picture of the first Christmas Tree I've had in 7 years. I know it's awful that I haven't had a tree since I stopped living with my parents. But isn't my little tree pretty? :)
Other than getting a Christmas tree, my weekend hasn't been too eventful. My office party was Friday. It was fun, but I forgot to take any pictures. We looked at wedding venues and bought the Christmas tree on Saturday.
Today I did chores and ran 6 miles. This evening I made a really delicious dinner. Baked Shrimp with Feta. Pro-tip: triple the garlic, which is basically my motto in life. I served this with quinoa instead of couscous and used the shrimp/quinoa combo to stuff baked red bell peppers. It was really good and very easy!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Christmas Party Planning

My darling fiance and I are having a Christmas party again this year. Last year's party was a lot of fun, but we planned it on the spur of the moment. We literally decided to have the party, then had the party a week later. I was also in Houston for work for three days during the week prior to the party. I quickly came up with a menu, and I think that most of the food was pretty tasty, but I want to seriously revamp the menu this year.
Last year we had:

Bacon wrapped water chestnuts- This was a huge hit and will be served again this year.
Red pepper and goat cheese dip- This was the biggest disappointment for me. The rosemary overpowered all of the other flavors.
Sugar Cookies- Let's just say that when it comes to using cookie cutters, I lack the dexterity that God gave your average toddler. At least they tasted good. This year I will be doing drop cookies.
Gougeres-I thought that these were delicious. However, they really didn't get eaten. I think that I made them too big and people thought that they were biscuits. Pro-tip: this dough is exactly like cream puff/eclair dough, except cheesier, which means that it's hollow inside. I think this would be awesome as the first course of a sit down dinner party- maybe filled with mashed potatoes and topped with a little slice of roast beef.
Slow roasted tomatoes- These were really good, but are more of a condiment. (I served them on toothpicks.) I was told that they were really tasty tucked inside a gougere.
I also quickly stuck a brie in the oven and topped it with some pear marmalade and walnuts.
There were also gourmet cupcakes, brought by my friend Ashley.

This year, the only carry-over will be the bacon wrapped water chestnuts. These are the other options I am toying with:

Pickled veggie tray- baby corn, okra, olives, etc....
Chocolate chip pecan oatmeal cookies- a drop cookie recipe from my mom. It's one of my holiday favorites.
Rotel dip- cream cheese, sausage, rotel...what's not to love? I have a serious problem with dips. Every time I try to make anything remotely high brow, I don't really like it. I'm caving and going back to my Mississippi roots on this one.
Blue cheese and cranberry stuffed endive- I've been waiting for an excuse to make this recipe. It looks so good to me.
Baked Brie- I actually have some puff pastry this year!
Fruit Pizza- I will use raspberries, strawberries, and kiwi's so it will look festive. This is one of the few asthetically pleasing foods I am capable of making.
Goat cheese stuffed pequillo peppers- Lauri made these for Kristi's bachelorette party and I was obsessed with them. Again, I've been looking for an excuse to make these.

So what do we think? Too much? Not enough? Too much cheese? (Like there's such a thing as too much cheese! I crack myself up sometimes!!) Not holiday specific?

In other news, tomorrow is my office party. I will be wearing a very cute, short, strappy cocktail dress (borrowed from Steph). For this reason, the powers that be have decided that the weather will suck tomorrow. It will certainly be cold and drizzly, and it might sleet or even snow. Thrilling.

Okay, I am now going to close my computer and clean my house, which is what I should have been doing instead of blogging this evening. Oops!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Gentlewoman's Holiday Gift Guide

Since there are few things I love more than shopping, I thought I'd put together a holiday gift guide for those of you trying to wrap up your Christmas shopping.

For the foodie in your life, why not give them cheese? Locally, I think that the St. James Cheese Co. gift boxes would be a great treat. Online, I'd go for Dean and Deluca.

For a runner, I'd suggest athletic wear- specifically reflective athletic wear for those dark runs after work. Illuminite shirts like this one look really cool and keep you visible. A Road ID or a Spibelt are also great gifts for runners.

For a drinker, I think that these ice-cube stones are really neat. Pair it with a nice bourbon- maybe Blanton's?

For a writer, some beautiful paper. I love Crane and Co. stationary.

For a DIY enthusiast, I'd choose something from Etsy. Scarves, bags, and jewelry are always lovely gifts.

For someone who loves the great outdoors, I'd get gear. I love these parachute silk hammocks. Camelbaks are also good gifts.

For a snow bunny, try a funny ski hat. They keep you warm and make you easy to spot on the slopes!

For a great cook, I'd go for a nice Le Creuset piece if you're feeling extravagant. I think bakewear like ramekins, pizza stones and tart pans would also be nice. It's stuff a cook will definitely use, but might not buy themselves.

For a homebody, comfy slippers. I love these from L.L. Bean.